Slams

All play is good and fun.

The table tennis slam—and its return—is one of the most ballet-like moves in the game. Draw crowds, oohs and aahs. A player falls back to return a withering series of slams.

When no one expects it, the superior player can slam back, from thirty feet.

You have to see it to believe it.

Personality of the net

Our Prism net is tongue-in-cheek.

Speaking totally in theory, if your ultra-slam were to be a wee bit low and hit into the net, the Prism rings with a soft gong sound. It sounds like a 1970s videogame blooper tone. The shot loops back to you in a gentle arc. If your slam were particularly vicious, the arc is higher, and takes longer to sail back to you. Unfortunately this means all the people watching your ordinarily great shots get to watch you wait for it.

The effect is an ever-so-gentle comment.

On the other hand, dinky shots into the net roll right back— the 60˚ slope returns them like in a bowling alley. If you play from a chair or wheelchair, you’ll grab the balls easier.

The round top allows any number of dramatic ricochet angles.

Nappers rest their heads on it.

Skateboarders grind it.

It’s our stronger net, and it talks back to you.

What’s behind the name?

It seems there are two kinds of company names. Some, like Ford Motor Co, tell you what the company does. Abercrombie and Fitch tell us the founders’ names, and suggest that while they have passed, their company deserves our trust. Others like Google or Zoetrope coax you out of the left brain, make you poke around for the spirit that drives the company.

A henge is an oval ridge of earth dug two thousand years ago. It was the social media of prehistoric England — a place to gather. People built them for worship and ritual  (the most famous is Stonehenge). The name seemed like a natural fit.

Ballet to One-ton Concrete Tables

Alan grew up around science and art and European New Wave films in a medical family. Summertimes at his grandparents’ house in Germany he saw the country rebuild after WWII.

After college he danced for 15 years in a world-class avant-garde dance company. In the aughts he led his own troupe. One day he hurt his foot. Doctor’s advice: don’t jump, maybe for a year. Alan put the troupe on hold.

Stir crazy during recuperation he checked the web to see if the US has concrete tennis tables like he saw in Berlin. He found only three hobby projects—in Tempe and Dallas.

Ultimately, it wasn’t a big leap from a ballet company to an outdoor ping pong table company: both seek to bring together people.

The company started out as Public Ping Pong the same month Susan Sarandon opened SPiN — the great table tennis social club in New York. The name Public Ping Pong says it all: a utility that belongs to all, like a library. When we enter we can see each other.

Unfortunately it turns out that there’s company that owns the term ping pong. Alan’s concrete ping pong table company needs a new name.

Who Inspired HENGE

Landscape architecture, the wide profession that builds on ethics, ecology, art, physics, horticulture, soil management, urban planning, public policy, engineering, social science

  • Richter Spielgeräte in particular; Northern European playgrounds in general. Designers who mix art into objects of play.

  • Jim Miller-Melberg, American designer of “swiss cheese” concrete climbing objects and the arching concrete basketball stand. Member of a 1950s advisory board to MoMA.

  • Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal at JFK, and the hundreds of other mid-century innovators in curved concrete design.

Walkable

The population grows, in and out of cities. Some of us choose more density. Especially if we can avoid getting in the car one day a week. The more dense we are, the more we need open space, the more we need that space to engage us. How to design the outdoors?

How to walk? How to make a place someplace you’d like to walk in and shop in, and dine out in, visit for more than a day, maybe or definitely live in?

As HENGE grew since 2009, we watched the private public partnerships of the Bloomberg administration here in New York shift into high gear.

We hope our table can play a tiny role in the worldwide movement towards the walkable city. German playground designers influenced us. We tip out hats to the landscape architect, to the city planner, to the facility manager. They ask, how to engage, how to program? We ask the same question. How to make the folks come outside.

We like quiet and we like buzz. Sometimes we don’t know what we want. Until we overhear someone talk about it. Or watch them do it.

Google and Facebook promise to answer all of our questions. Outdoor space—the backyard, the courtyard, the campus, the farmer’s market, Main Street, the mall—have new competition: online.

Many people don’t mind to live in a bit more density, as long as they can walk, bike, and get to a park (and find parking).

In the cities, we live and work in the so-called built environment. We sometimes miss nature. Our bridges and airports and subways and buses face challenges. Yet we see new ideas— new park design and landscape architecture. The waterside parks are amazing in New York City. Please take the ferry to Governor's Island. 

The farmer's market of today resembles the prehistoric henge.