The playable city, projects by The Urban Conga

The Urban Conga,

The Urban Conga, Savannah Lauren, Michael Flanagan, Christopher Brickman,

New York, USA, Miami, USA, New Orleans, USA, Cleveland, Ohio,

Installazioni, Playground,


The Urban Conga, a multidisciplinary international design studio based in Brooklyn, has won several awards for its work exploring the concept of the "playable city ": an ecosystem of “playable” opportunities interwoven with the existing urban infrastructure which interrupt and enrich our daily routines.

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The playable city, projects by The Urban Conga
There is a lot of talk about urban installations for activating public space, a matter of general interest, as demonstrated by the prominent awards received by The Urban Conga, winner of the 2021 Architizer A+ Firm of the Year Award for Small Projects and the 2020 ArchDaily Best Young Practice. The studio won the awards for its concept of the Playable City, an ecosystem of opportunities for play which the studio proposes within the urban infrastructure, as a diversion and a way of enriching the city.
The importance of play is often neglected or underestimated in discussion of architecture, urban development and the changing city, but The Urban Conga’s work reveals the impact it can have on the health, identity, social and economic value and development of our cities and communities. All because play is universal, and ought to be used to activate shared public spaces and make them more inclusive, safe and healthy.
This idea was developed in the United States, where The Urban Conga has designed five different installations in five cities; let’s take a closer look at them.
Oscillation focuses on interactive use of sight, sound and motion to trigger spontaneous social interaction and conversation in a once underused space. The installation emits sounds which vary depending on our distance from it, inviting passers-by to create their own melody and dance. 
The Hangout, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, a community that is still fighting to get back on its feet after Hurricane Katrina of 2005, is the result of a process in which the creative artists worked with the community to come up with a place that would inspire people. The installation is made up of groups of cylinders providing a place to sit down, where people can meet, and uses tactile sensor technology to transform each of the cylinders into a playable musical instrument.
Entangled is a platform for learning, discussing and exploring the history, stories and music of Haitian culture, located outside the doors of the Little Haiti cultural complex in Miami and intended for both residents and visitors. The Urban Conga created the project through a series of workshops in close contact with the community and the cultural complex. 
Shifting totems connects two neighbourhoods and was designed in a participatory process with the Glenville community in Cleveland, Ohio. The work was designed as a platform for triggering conversations about community life among residents and visitors.
Lastly, Why sit when you can play? is a series of public benches like xylophones, the shape of which reflects the space in which they are installed. Their organic, fluid arrangement encourages interaction on several levels, because the two sections of the benches each contain two octaves of musical notes and can be played with little hammers. 
As Plato said, "you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation", and this is exactly the experience The Urban Conga aims to provide with its installations, designed for people of all ages in the city.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: The Urban Conga
Location: New York - New Orleans - Miami - Glenville, USA
Year: 2018-2020
Images: see captions
1) The Hangout, ph. Michael Flanagan
2) Entangled, ph. Christopher Brickman
3) Oscillation, ph. Savannah Lauren
4) Musical Bench, ph. TheUrbanConga
5) Shifting Totems, ph. TheUrbanConga
6) Oscillation, ph. Savannah Lauren
7) The Hangout, ph. Michael Flanagan
8) Entangled, ph. Christopher Brickman
9) Shifting Totems, ph. TheUrbanConga
10) Musical Bench, ph. TheUrbanConga