The Nest

Sir John Sorrell’s design brief was to craft an outdoor seat to watch the sunset from, while also creating a space for reflection and contemplation. The seat was to be fabricated from American Red Oak and a key element of the brief was for the seat to be designed to last for generations.

The Sorrell family have a cottage in the countryside, which they have had for 35 years. The cottage originally just had a small garden, but over the years, the garden has grown and they have planted over 4000 trees and dug out two large ponds.

“One of the ponds has the most incredible views of the sunset where you get this golden reflection in the water. Dallas–Pierce–Quintero has created a beautiful seat from which to view that sunset. We call it The Nest because it looks like a bird’s nest and it will sit in a crescent of trees.”

Sir John Sorrell
View overlooking the pond

The proposed site overlooks the two ponds, and is set within a border of mature trees. These trees will mature and grow around this structure so it will eventually feel a little bit like a treehouse and weather within the landscape.

Over the years, a flock of Canadian Geese has used the ponds as their nesting grounds and in a way, this piece is a bit like a nest too, only for humans.

Model showing the exploration of building a bird's nest using a timber module

The site and the rich grain of the red oak inspired a design that would seek to feel part of the natural landscape and its surroundings. When making The Nest, we used planks of red oak that had been thermally modified to make it more durable for outdoor use. Every layer of the piece uses the same width of timber with some pieces notched to allow more light to pass through.

Our challenge was to create a sense of richness and texture in the vertical surfaces of the nest so that it wasn’t a blank elevation, but one that would almost disintegrate into the view as you look towards it.

Each layer uses the same width of timber
Some pieces are notched to allow light to filter through at different points
Working closely with the craftsmen at Benchmark
Exposing the timber ends and rich texture of the vertical surfaces

“We wanted to offer the experience of something like a cocoon but at the same time allow dappled light to come through so that you get a sense that you are within the trees.  It’s a space of contemplation and a space of reflection.

Juliet Quintero
Nestled within the trees
The structure evokes the slightly random configuration of a bird's nest
Natural light animates the structure with constantly changing shadows

“When it’s installed, it will be the most beautiful place to sit, not just for us, but for children and our grandchildren and their children and their grandchildren.”

Sir John Sorrell

Our commission was one of ten that formed part of the Legacy project, a collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). Leaders of London’s top cultural institutions were invited to collaborate with international designers to create ‘legacy’ pieces to be passed on either to a family member or to the institution they lead.

Commissioners / Designers included:

Maria Balshaw (Tate)
Max Lamb (Valet)

Alex Beard (Royal Opera House)
Terence Woodgate (Duo)

Ian Blatchford (The Science Museum)
Marlene Huissoud (Beehave)

Iwona Blazwick (Whitechapel Gallery)
Raw Edges (Wooden Hinge)

Tristram Hunt (Victoria and Albert Museum)
Jasper Morrison Studio (Fugu)

Kwame Kwei (Young Vic)
Tomoko Azumi (Au)

Amanda (British Film Insitute)
Sebastian Cox (Writer’s Collection)

Hans Ulrich (Serpentine Galleries)
Studiomama (Serpentine Postbox)

Tamara Rojo (English National Ballet)
Martino Gamper (Musical Shelf)

Project launch outside the Natural History Museum

The 10 pieces were all crafted by Benchmark and were on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum in London for the duration of the 2019 London Design Festival.


South Kensington, London
London Design Festival 2019
Photography: Petr Krejci