Bespoke Public Seating at the Dolphin Centre

As well as our private and professional clients who, for the most part, require bespoke furniture for domestic settings, we also work alongside commercial clients who commission unique statement pieces for public settings. One such project was completed just before Covid 19 disrupted all of our lives and consequently we have only recently been able to have it photographed in order to share with you.

In the Spring of 2019, we were commissioned to make a series of bespoke benches for the Dolphin Centre in Poole. The building had originally opened as The Arndale Centre in 1969 and the new seating was part of a regeneration project to mark its Golden Jubilee. At the time Simon was designing the benches, he was also celebrating his 50th birthday and consequently felt a certain kinship, and perhaps empathy, with the centre!

The client had stated a desire for the space, and therefore the seating, to be a social area where people can meet and spend time rather than a purely functional retail space that people just pass through. The challenge was to design seating that would not just be a place for people to take a short rest but also create sociable places where people may arrange to meet: to chat, share a coffee or just hang out or shelter from inclement weather. There needed to be a varietyof different forms: curved and straight, with and without backs or arms, 2, 3 and 4 seat options but there needed to be an overarching theme that tied the space together and gave the message that ‘this is the Dolphin Centre; this is Poole’.


In developing the design, Simon looked into the history of Poole and found examples of the Medieval Coat of Arms elements of which is still visible in the modern one: namely the dolphin which remains the symbol of Poole and the after which the shopping centre is named, and the 3 black scallop shells. But what really stood out to Simon was the representation of the port using black and gold waves. By happy coincidence, our award winning ‘Floating Bench’ had been designed to incorporate a mixture of black scorched and natural, golden oak and so by combining these influences and techniques we were able to create the striking black and gold wavy stripes which became the side supports and end panels in the final product. This gave a strong symbolic link between the modern design and the local history whilst keeping the reference subtle, pared back and contemporary.

In order to future-proof the benches as much as possible, Simon designed them to be reconfigured in several different ways so that, should the functionality of the communal space in the centre be altered for any reason, the benches can be moved and put together in any number of combinations, making them flexible and reusable and of even greater value to the client. The shapes and the way the seating elements interact with one another also offer a huge variety of use for all visitors; from bustling family groups to elderly couples, to those weary individuals who are waiting for partners to return from a shop. There are several curved and some almost circular seats where the inward face of a bench offers a bit more intimacy and protection from the rush of people and shopping bags passing by or conversely one can sit facing outwards whilst, perhaps, looking out for a familiar face in the crowd or enjoying a spot of people watching.

So next time you’re in Poole doing a spot of shopping, make sure you find time to sit and relax, take note of those subtle historical references and marvel at the exceptional design and quality of the public seating!

Dolphin Centre Website: The Dolphin is now involved with all sorts of dynamic schemes to help rejuvinate the UK High Street as well as hosting many familiar names in retail – Click here to visit to visit the website.

Stainless Steel Fabrication: The stainless steel arm support structures were manufactured locally by Elite Fabrication & Welding Ltd

Photography: Double Exposure Photographic

Cost: For public seating projects please contact Simon Thomas Pirie to discuss your requirements in more detail.

Written by Bridget Pirie

May 2023