Image by Christopher Brickman
Portal is a swinging bench lined with Kebony wood and made from recyclable stainless steel.

The Urban Conga Plays with Art Installations in Sarasota’s Bay Park

Jan. 31, 2023
Each piece creates unique moments of play and interaction for the new waterfront.
The Urban Conga, in collaboration with Cambridge, Mass.-based Agency Landscape and Planning, has added two “playable” art installations to The Bay Conservancy’s new Bay Park in Sarasota, Fla. These two pieces are driven by the desire for more community engagement and social activation along the waterfront during the second phase of construction in the park’s development.
The Urban Conga is a Brooklyn, NY-based multidisciplinary design studio that explores the idea of architectural moments that stimulate creativity and bridge divides amongst neighbors, breaking inequities to bring people together. Each installation at Bay Parik utilizes the views, movement and our instinctual need for play to spark human connection along the waterfront pathway. Both become communal landmarks, inspired by the large number of coral reefs off the Sarasota coast and designed to appear as if they’d washed up on the shore.
The first installation, titled "Portal", is a swinging bench with a flowing form that frames out different views of Sarasota Bay. It’s lined with Kebony wood, and the structure is made from recyclable stainless steel for durability. During the equinox, the sun sits perfectly within the work’s circular forced perspective. The interlocking curved forms are designed to frame a more ample gathering space along the walkway where people can sit and come together as a larger group to take in the sunset views, converse about the changing area or even have a picnic. The entire piece becomes a programmable community space along the waterfront. As one sits or lays on the floating bench and stares into the water while swaying back and forth, they begin to feel like they are floating on the water in solitude. The curved design of the bench provides a variety of open-ended social seating interactions for up to 4-5 people at a time.

The second, titled "Drum Coral", is a series of tuned drums—each set to a different pitch—that can be played or used for seating. It is created entirely from recyclable aluminum, painted with an eco-friendly powder coat. All of the drums can be played with your hands, much like a Conga drum, while the smaller coral pieces become seats that can also be played while seated, much like a Cajon drum. The various spacing and heights of the drums help create easier accessibility for all to play, becoming a space for spontaneous jam sessions, dance parties and other social gatherings.

Both pieces focus on connecting people to the surrounding environment, while promoting greater awareness of their impact through the utilization of play to spark open conversations on climate change.

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