Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary design studio The Urban Conga has created a community table, a place for social interaction where people listen, learn and connect with one another around the past, present, and future of Highland Park in Pittsburgh.
As part of a Pittsburgh Art in the Parks initiative that begins to activate Pittsburgh’s public parks in new ways, the project has been developed through a series of participatory design workshops with the Highland Park community and surrounding areas, utilizing play methodologies such as gamification and imaginative play to collect communal stories, values, and feedback.
This communal dialog was used to develop every component within the design of the work.
Together’s design contains a series of stepped surfaces that wrap and frame two existing old ash trees that sit within the site.
The two trees anchor the work to the natural landscape, while also serving as natural shade for the space during the summer.
The installation’s flowing form begins to carve out three communal gathering spaces within the landscape that encourage group interaction; the undulating surfaces serve as a table, a bench, a stage, and more for the community to make their own.
Even though the installation is fixed, it becomes transformative to its user, creating an ever-changing experience that keeps people coming back to use the space in new ways.
The design of the pattern cut into the surfaces of the platform was generated from images of water ripples to create a feeling of movement within the work and space.
As sunlight passes through the work throughout the day, a cascade of light ripples and moves along the ground.
The installation’s transparency allows it to blend with the natural environment while providing a visual landmark within the landscape.
The golden-yellow color was selected through community feedback, due not only to its relationship to Pittsburgh, but also to its ability to evoke emotions of hope, happiness, and comfort within the space.
The surrounding spaces were being used for vendors, barbecues, parties, and more in isolated situations, so the work is designed to become an additive component to help interconnect these activities and bring people closer together.
The hope is that the installation serves as a bridge for social connection and continues to further unify the community of Pittsburgh.
The Urban Conga also worked with local Pittsburgh community storyteller Alyssa Velazquez, who created a zine that is being utilized as a post-evaluation tool of the work.
The zine walks one through the process of the work being implemented in Highland Park and the park’s history, while also leaving a space for the community to reflect on their thoughts.
Designers: The Urban Conga
Client: City of Pittsburgh
Photographers: Sean Carroll