Art as an activator in the new Bay Park in Sarasota, Florida

The Urban Conga,

Christopher Brickman, Ryan Swanson,

Sarasota, FL, US,

urban park, Installation,

Landscaping, Refurbishment, Installations,

Two artistic installations, Portal and Drum Coral, designed by The Urban Conga for the Bay Conservancy’s new Bay Park in Sarasota, Florida, beautify the first part of the waterfront park. While maintaining a relationship with their natural surroundings, they are designed to offer two opportunities for play while serving as occasions for socialisation during construction of phase two in the environmental redevelopment project.

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Art as an activator in the new Bay Park in Sarasota, Florida
The Bay in Sarasota, Florida is an initiative of the community, the city and the parks board transforming 21 hectares of municipal land, mostly used as a parking lot, into a public park. The Bay Park Conservancy is the partner appointed for the development of the town of Sarasota and entrusted with the design, planning and development of the new park, returning these areas to the community and funding capital projects and BPC operations in course from private sources complementing government/public funding. And, lastly, management, operation and ongoing maintenance following all the phases in construction of the park. The land is located in the municipality of Sarasota, on the Gulf of Mexico waterfront, and has been redeveloped with a focus on response to climate change and on human interaction.
October saw the conclusion of the first phase in the project, which began in 2019. This includes more than 5 hectares of green spaces that have been revitalised with a theme playground, public lawns, the Mangrove Bayou Walkway, an open-air reading room, a disabled-accessible paddle launch, and restored, preserved mangroves and coasts. 
The project also includes the last two artistic installations by The Urban Conga, a multidisciplinary design studio based in Brooklyn, NY, encouraging community and social interaction through play. The two works for the new Bay Park, Portal and Drum Coral, are inspired by the many coral reefs off the Sarasota coast.  
Portal" is a swinging bench with a flowing form, big enough for 4-5 people. The Urban Conga positioned it so that it frames the different views of the bay, and during the equinox, the sun sits perfectly within the work’s circular 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.
"Drum Coral“, on the other hand, is a series of tuned drums that look like pieces of coral, each set to a different pitch. All of the drums can be played with the hands, like Conga drums, while the smaller coral pieces become seats which can also be played with the hands while seated, like a Cajon. The different spacing and heights of the drums facilitate access for all, while the work in operation uses movement and sound to form connections and community in the space, becoming a place for spontaneous jam sessions, dance parties and other social gatherings.
Both of The Urban Conga’s pieces focus on connecting people to the surrounding environment, while promoting greater awareness of their impact through the utilisation of play to spark open conversations on climate change, especially in the coastal areas of Florida where its effects are increasingly being felt.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: The Urban Conga
Location: Sarasota, FL, US
Year: 2022
Images: Christopher Brickman, Ryan Swanson


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