A series of playable art installations activate revitalized waterfront park

27 Jan 2023

Coral reef-inspired art installations along the Sarasota waterfront spark communal interaction and social activity through open-ended play design.

Photo credit: Christopher Brickman

The Bay project consists of two different playable installations created by The Urban Conga for the Bay Conservancy’s new Bay Park in Sarasota, Florida. The designs for the work were driven by community engagement conducted in the preliminary phases of the park’s design development. The Urban Conga worked with Agency Landscape and Planning, who designed the new segment of the park to add two playable opportunities to serve as moments of social activation along the waterfront during the construction of Phase Two. Each installation utilizes the views, movement, and play to spark social connection along the bay walk. Both pieces become communal landmarks within the space, each uniquely relating to the surrounding context. Each of the installations was inspired by the large number of coral reefs that reside off the Sarasota coast and were designed to appear as if they were two unique pieces washed up on the shore.

Photo credit: Christopher Brickman

The first installation, titled 'Portal', is a swinging social bench with a flowing form that frames out different views of Sarasota Bay. 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 bench is lined with highly sustainable Kebony wood, and the structure is made from recyclable stainless steel for durability. The installation becomes a portal for people to connect with the surrounding landscape, and to think about our environmental impact and how sea-level rise is dramatically affecting the Florida coast.

The second installation, titled 'Drum Coral', is a series of tuned drums that can be played or used for seating. Each end of the tentacles of the reef is a drum tuned to a different pitch. 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. The work uses movement and sound to create a communal connection within the space. It becomes a space for spontaneous jam sessions, dance parties, and other social gatherings. The work was created entirely from recyclable aluminium, painted with an eco-friendly powder coat. Like Portal, the work focuses 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.


Technical sheet

  • Client: The Bay Conservancy
  • Date Installed: 12-2023
  • Location: The Bay Park - 777 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236
  • Project Size: Portal: 8’L x 8’W x 8’H & Coral: 10'L x 10'W x 3' H
  • Designers: The Urban Conga 

About The Urban Conga

The Urban Conga is an award-winning Brooklyn, NY-based multidisciplinary design studio comprised of a diverse group of creatives, collectively focused on sparking community interaction and social activity through open-ended play. Their work explores the idea of creating more playable cities as an ecosystem of inclusive, multi-scale, playable opportunities that are intertwined within our existing urban fabric. Their work investigates new ways to transform often once-overlooked or underutilized situations into stimulating creative outlets that bridge divides and begin to break inequities by bringing people together through moments of play. Through this work, they have had opportunities to collaborate with communities, NGOs, businesses, municipal agencies, and institutions worldwide, delivering multi-scaled urban interventions, playable products, workshops, lectures, development plans, and public policy recommendations.