Street Seats: Urban Benches for Vibrant Cities

Start Date

August 9, 2018

End Date

February 28, 2019


Street Seats: Urban Benches for Vibrant Cities

Free Exhibit by Design Museum Portland

Model Gallery: June 7, 2018 – August 31, 2018
Outdoor Exhibit: August 9, 2018 – February 2019
Grand Opening & Finalist Announcement: August 9, 2018 5-7pm
World Trade Center Portland & Tom McCall Waterfront Park
121 SW Salmon St. Portland, OR 97204

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

Street Seats is a multi-faceted design challenge culminating in a public, outdoor exhibition that celebrates local and international design talent, civic innovation, and sustainability. As cities become increasingly dense, leaders are focused on developing urban spaces that employ creative functionality while preserving identity and celebrating culture. Street Seats activates the visibility and livability of an urban area while being socially and environmentally conscious.

The Design Challenge

The world’s creative minds were presented with a design challenge: Reimagine the Public Bench. Entries were submitted from 6 continents, 24 countries, and 22 U.S. states by design firms, students, and individuals for a chance to be chosen as one of 15 Semi-Finalists, whose designs will be fabricated and installed around the World Trade Center and Tom McCall Waterfront Park. These creatives have spent the past six months reimagining a sustainable, unique, aesthetically-pleasing public bench that embraces and enhances the vibrancy of Downtown Portland.

Street Seats features a high-caliber Jury to select the winning entries. The Jury is a hand-selected panel of design thought leaders, arts and culture leaders, and urban innovators, representing the city of Portland in its diversity and vibrancy, from urban growth, to neighborhood identity, to artistry and design. Jurors have an exceptional understanding of and appreciation for design, a drive for community, and a serious passion for Portland.

The Semi-Finalists

The 15 Semi-Finalist designs will be fabricated and installed to make up the outdoor exhibition. The designs represent local and international talent, eco-friendly practices, and the capability of creatives far and wide to make an impact in the built environment. Read all about the benches to be featured in the exhibition here!

Model Gallery

One of the most intriguing components of the Street Seats design challenge is the multifaceted entry requirements. Along with a digital entry, each entrant is required to submit a physical 1/8 scale model as part of their final entry to showcase workmanship and assist the judges in envisioning the full-scale design. Prior to the outdoor exhibition opening, viewers are welcome to visit the Model Gallery, featuring model entries from around the world, giving the public a unique opportunity to see the scope of the design talent participating in the competition.

The Model Gallery will be on view to the public in a wrapping window display on the ground floor at the World Trade Center from June 7th – August 31st, 2018. Visitors can find the Gallery at the corner of SW Salmon Street and 2nd Avenue, next to Starbucks.

The evening of June 7th marks the Model Gallery Opening Reception, where the 15 Semi-Finalist benches chosen to be fabricated will be announced to a room of design enthusiasts as they enjoy refreshments and celebrate international, impactful design.

Grand Opening

The Street Seats Grand Opening marks the launch of this 6-month outdoor design exhibition in a culmination of exceptional ideation, creative problem-solving, and teamwork from designers around the globe. The top 3 finalists, who will receive trophies, promotion and media coverage, a feature in the Design Museum Magazine, as well as cash prizes, will be announced. Enjoy guided walking tours of the exhibition’s featured benches, local food favorites, and a presentation of the top three winning designs.

Join us on August 9th from 5:00-7:00pm at the World Trade Center Portland and Salmon Street Springs for this celebration of design and vibrancy in Downtown Portland.

Design Museum Members are invited to join an exclusive preview reception the evening of August 2nd.

Program Events

Model Gallery Opening &  Semi-Finalist Announcement
June 7 • 6:00-9:00pm • Free for members, $10 for non-members
Be the first to see the Street Seats that will be fabricated this summer, along with the hundreds of designs from around the world participating in the competition.

Members-Only Preview Reception
August 2 • 6:00-8:00pm • Free for members
We invite our members and supporters for an exclusive evening to meet the designers and get an insider’s look at the exhibition design.

Grand Opening & Finalist Announcement
August 9 • 5:00-7:00pm • Free and open to the public
Join us for the launch of this 6-month outdoor design exhibition, featuring walking tours of the one-of-a-kind Street Seats, local food favorites, and a sun-filled afternoon.

Design Museum Mornings: The Giving Seat
September 14 • 8:30-10:00am • Free for members, $10 for non-members
Be inspired by one of the Street Seats designers as we deep dive into the inspiration, process, and creation behind these unique benches.

Kids Workshop: Build Your Own Bench
September 22 • 10:00am-12:00pm •Free and open to the public
Aspiring designers of all ages are invited to learn more about the Street Seats and imagine your own public bench.

UNITE Panel Discussion: Reimagine the Urban Experience
October 11 • 6:00-8:00 • Free for members, $20 for non-members
Industry experts discuss what it means to activate the visibility and livability of an urban area while being socially and environmentally conscious.

Traveling to Portland for Street Seats? Be sure to stay at the iconic Jupiter Hotel – our Street Seats hospitality partner! Inquire at for an exclusive discount code.

Get Involved


Street Seats is made possible by our presenting partners Portland General Electric Company and the World Trade Center Portland, and our sponsors Skanska, Gerding Edlen, Zidell Yards, Klarquist Sparkman, Jupiter Hotel, Lease Crutcher Lewis, and Acme Scenic.

Interested in partnering with us? Email for more information.


We are seeking volunteers for exhibition installation, event support, and tour guides! Inquire at


For our full media kit, click here.

Free Walking Tour

We are proud to partner with the artGuideBook app for a self-guided family friendly tour. Simply download the app (through Apple or Google Play) and search Street Seats to see an interactive map of all the benches!





About Design Museum Portland

At Design Museum Portland we believe design can change the world. Done well, it can elevate our quality of life, make businesses more competitive, and protect our environment. Design awareness, education, and expertise are more important now than ever before as design continues to impact communities, organizations, and markets around the world. Design Museum Portland is redefining what it means to be a museum in the 21st century — we’re online, nomadic, and accessible to all through a network of exhibitions, events, and content. Our mission: Bring the transformative power of design everywhere, to inspire a world full of creative problem solvers. Design is everywhere. So are we.

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