The Urban Conga is a design firm focused on promoting community activity and social interaction through play. The firm was started by three architecture graduates looking for a way to create interactive installations that could begin to activate underutilized spaces within their city. The idea wasn't just to create something cool, but to create something that was functional. That specific function would be to bring play and activity into an area. Play is something we become less and less accepting of as we get older, and it causes one to begin to have a negative connotation towards the action . We begin to say to ourselves "If I play in a public park it makes me look unprofessional" or "I don't have time to play"or even "I'm to old to play". These thoughts are beginning to become the norm in our society today. With the boom in technology causing us to become less social our public spaces are becoming more and more underutilized. We wanted to see how much of an impact play had not only on people but the spaces in which people were playing. So we decided to pack our bags and travel to 9 different cities across the United States. We traveled from Tampa, FL to Los Angeles, CA in an old station wagon that became one of our installations in it self by allowing people to draw and paint all over the car. Along the way we activated spaces with interactive toys, giant beach balls, swings, interactive projections, and had a lot of good conversations with amazing people on the topic of play. The impact we saw was not only the activation of underutilized spaces, but the ability to provide a platform for breaking down social barriers. This quickly helped us decide to continue on our path to create a more playable world. When we returned we decided to start developing permanent installations and focused on working with other businesses to promote the importance of play!
Why play? This is a question that we ask ourselves more and more the older we get, but the real question we should be asking is what is play? Play might seem like a simple word with a basic definition, but when you start to really think about it play is defined by who we are. Play has so many different interpretations based on anyone that is asked. So our mission at The Urban Conga is really to figure out what play means and how it can begin to be interpreted into public spaces. How can we begin to use this idea of play, in whatever form it might be, to really begin to activate space with communal activity and public social interaction. Where a person can begin to engage with their neighbor face to face and not via social media, and how can we use the source of technology to create these moments even more. We at The Urban Conga have taken this task on to develop playable platforms that can either be permanent, temporary, or even guerrilla style to help show people that it is okay to play.
Watch our founder Ryan Swanson talk about why play is important and his still open journey to figuring out what play means.