A new community-designed space evokes hopeful conversation in the Brooklyn neighborhood of South Baltimore

07 Jun 2024

Interwoven is an open-ended, programmable space providing a place for residents to listen, observe, dream, and reflect on their surrounding neighbourhood.

Photo credit: Bonnie Newman

Interwoven is an open-ended, communal space providing a place for residents to listen, observe, dream, and reflect. The space resides in Garrett Park and was created by The Urban Conga in collaboration with the Brooklyn neighbourhood of South Baltimore, a neighbourhood dealing with a lot of traumas based around drug abuse, gun violence, and pollution.

During the process, the design team was told by kids that they were scared to walk into the park because they had stepped on used drug needles. People talked about the pollution that plagued the park and neighbourhood, making it hard for them to breathe at times. During the conceptual design phase, there was a mass shooting at a community event that took the lives of several community members. With this small footprint, The Urban Conga couldn't solve these massive systemic issues encompassing the neighbourhood, but they could work with the community to create a space that sparked inspiration and hope.

The community is focused on moving beyond these adversities and showcasing the positivity and strength that exists within this neighbourhood, creating a space that could evoke a larger conversation and bring people together to make change. The community was the driver in this project, and the design team was simply a tool to tell their story. The space became a place designed by the community for the community. The project was designed through many workshops around the neighbourhood, where community stories and feedback were collected throughout the entire design process to help shape a design the community can call its own.

From the early conversations of the desires and hopes of the community to the final design of Interwoven – the community has gifted their stories, experiences, feedback, and more to enhance their neighbourhood and create a brighter future. Play methodologies, like play therapy, were utilized during the process to create a safe place for people to share and open up about the traumas. Every component of the space was created, critiqued, and refined by the community.

The work encourages people to explore what they hear, see, feel, and dream while in the space. Interwoven was created as a place for both the community young and old to gather, discuss, and reflect on these issues and the changes that need to be made. Perched at the top of a hill with a view of the entire city of Baltimore, the area becomes a place for people to gather and reflect on the area's good and bad.

Baltimore is home to various industrial facilities, and the Brooklyn neighbourhood suffers the most, being amid a majority of the air pollution put off by these establishments. Interwoven puts a spotlight on this issue by directing the user's attention through each of the portals, purposely guiding towards an area of the city where pollution occurs, as well as various areas of the neighbourhood, highlighting both the positives and negatives of the surrounding environment.

The work consists of four stepped seating structures that point directionally towards different areas of the neighbourhood and city, reflecting those views onto the work itself. On each of the four separate pieces, prompts are in place to provide open discussion, intimate conversation, and private reflection on the issues within the neighbourhood and hope for a better future. These prompts ask the questions of what you dream, what you hear, what you see, and what you feel. Each serves as a conversation starter in the space.

Each component of the space was designed to create a calming environment, from the work's colour to the curved forms. Keeping the main space open for programming like community meetings, dance classes, birthday parties, movie nights, and more - the ground mural creates an open-ended game space to spark playful imagination by use of its interweaving geometric shapes. The interweaving pattern of the work creates a safe, playful, and open-ended space for the community to make their own.

The space was designed as a place that can be utilized by everyone in the community. The dichroic portals are constructed at various heights to allow people of all ages and abilities to experience the reflective nature of Interwoven. It was also essential for us to use materials that would not only protect the existing site but also be fully recyclable – providing a sustainable outlet for the neighbourhood to grow and adapt over time.

The structures were created with fully recyclable aluminium materials, and the ground mural is painted with a sustainable two-component epoxy coating that provides UV protection to the existing substrate. Instead of tearing down the existing pergola, the work embraces it and utilizes its existing foundation. The work was created as a kit of parts to minimize having any heavy machinery onsite for installation, creating a delicate touch within the community to spark a larger impact.


Technical sheet

  • Project Title: INTERWOVEN
  • Client: Baybrook Alliance and Brooklyn community
  • Designer / Creator: The Urban Conga 
  • Collaborator: The Brooklyn neighborhood
  • Year Installed: June 2024
  • Location: 3560 3rd St, Baltimore, MD 21225
  • Project Size: 600 sqft