Call For Entries • Street Seats International Design Challenge

January 18, 2018 | | View Comments

Calling all designers, architects, makers, builders, artists, and creatives: New international design challenge for a public outdoor bench exhibition!

Registration for this design challenge is closed.

We are pleased to announce Street Seats: Urban Benches for Vibrant Cities, an international design challenge which will culminate in an outdoor design exhibition and walking tour in Downtown Portland, Oregon! 

Designers, whether individual or in teams, are invited to design a sustainable, outdoor park bench with a focus on reuse, using environmentally-friendly materials and innovative construction methods. Semi-Finalist teams will fabricate their unique bench designs to be featured in an outdoor public design exhibition at the World Trade Center Portland in August of 2018.

Design brings communities together. Public seating sets the scene for chance encounters, people watching, connecting with nature, or just taking a break.

Street Seats provides an opportunity to improve the visibility and livability of an urban area while being socially and environmentally conscious. Design Museum Portland, along with our partners Portland General Electric Company and the World Trade Center Portland, invite participants from around the world to design an iconic bench, or ‘street seat,’ for the World Trade Center Portland plaza in Southwest Portland’s thriving downtown district. The area is a lively destination for residents and visitors alike, with access to major financial, government, and business institutions, as well as the Tom McCall Waterfront Park and a burgeoning tourism district.

In 2013, Design Museum Boston produced Street Seats around Boston’s Fort Point Channel. Design Museum Boston collaborated with design teams from around the world, commissioning 18 new public benches which were installed along the Harborwalk. In addition to the bench installation exhibition, the program featured online content, beacons, and an opening celebration, drawing thousands of people to the site, with over 1,000,000 impressions over a 7-month period.

Why Apply to the Street Seats International Design Challenge?

The four-month application period welcomes designers, architects, fabricators, makers, artists, and craftspeople to register and create a unique Street Seat. Each submission will be judged by a panel of thought leaders, arts and culture leaders, urban innovators, and sponsors to determine the top 15 Semi-Finalists, who will then fabricate their bench to be installed in the outdoor exhibit and walking tour! Participating designers receive international recognition in the design community and visibility with major organizations interested in supporting the arts, design, and urban innovation industries.

Street Seats is more than a design competition. It is a career accelerator. For two quietly talented designers at my firm, Street Seats provided a platform for them to express their creativity, hone their leadership skills and increase their visibility in the firm and design community at large. Having proven their ability to represent the firm well, they now lead complex design projects and mentor others making their way in this industry.”

– Brittney Herrera, SERA Architects

How to Apply

Applications are accepted from around the world! If you or your team is interested in participating, please read in detail the Call for Entries for all details on the registration and submission process, eligibility, and prizes.

Design and Judging Criteria

The Jury will base its scoring on the following considerations:

  • Sustainable design using recycled, reclaimed, and/or renewable materials
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Innovative design and construction
  • Safe for outdoor public use
  • Must fit within bench envelope (30’’ x 72’’ x 48’’)
  • Seat at least 2 people – hold 600 lbs of weight at various seating positions
  • Suitable for outdoor use (durable, robust, weatherproof, etc)
  • Stable and securable at the site once installed
  • Depth and quality of design process documentation

Schedule at a Glance

January 18: Applications Open

March 16: Early Bird Registration Deadline

May 11: Final Deadline, 11:59pm PDT

June 8: Semi-Finalists Announcement

August 2: Exhibition Opening in Portland, Oregon

Have more questions?

 Ready to Register?


“It’s a joy to see how people from all over the world reinterpret the humble public bench, and what an amazing impact public seating can have on an urban space. Street Seats is a chance for designers of all kinds to take their ideas outside the studio and be part of something big — and make real change in the built environment.”

– Sam Aquillano, Executive Director, Design Museum Foundation

Support Street Seats

Partners of Street Seats are welcome! Supporters receive international recognition in the design challenge, visibility at the exhibition in Downtown Portland, Oregon, and even obtain a Semi-Finalist bench to display, auction, or donate after the program is complete. 

For partnership information, email

Press from Street Seats 2013:

Semi-finalists announced in ‘Street Seats’ competition –

See the 20 Semi-Finalists in Design Museum Boston’s Street Seats Challenge – Boston Magazine

Street Seats: Reimagining the Public Bench – Architecture Boston

Design Museum Boston | Street Seats Competition WINNERS – Behance

Designers Compete to Reinvent the Park Bench: Innovative ‘Street Seats’ Debut at Fort Point Channel -AmericanInno

Street Seats – Color Kinetics

Tedx Talk – Sam Aquillano, Executive Director, Design Museum Foundation