Landscape architecture is a vast field whose importance grows as cities and regions come up with new ideas to help people enjoy open space. Their great monthly Landscape Architecture magazine reports on sea level rise, play amenities for adults in Copenhagen, in-depth reports on topography and plantings in corporate headquarter design.
LAs specify our table when it fulfills the needs of their clients and fits in the sense and spirit of their design, even the history of a neighborhood.
The table as object can converse with the lines, shapes, and textures in their design. Both hardscape, buildings, and plantings.
The table can provide a bridge between active and passive people like those who toss frisbees and basketballs and those who eat and loll. Designs take into account the order of sights: when a visitor who walks in from a given entrance sees which amenity or which activity. To bring play opportunity for old and young close enough to bbq on the picnic tables but far enough that the balls don’t fly into potato salad. Or to program when there’s only 250 square feet available.
Solstice is behind us, now we enter the real days of summer. Not yet the dog days. We can play almost every day. The addicts start a WhatsApp group and ping each other to play on a moment's notice.
Each day serves up a different mix of wind and sun. Trees bloom and pollen touches the table. If your local table lies near a stream of walkers, like the old table in Tompkins Square Park, then add to sun, wind, and flower dust the diaspora of people that pass you as you play. You chase the orange balls that miss the table thread between the passersby, head back to the table and resume.
Especially after 5 pm. That's when people who stream home really let down their hair, post work, and that's when the players race the sun as it sets. That's when people loosen up and can play their best.
A good number of folks who pass your game go out of their way to pick up a runaway ball and shyly throw it back to you.
Consider the ping pong ball.
Its spin when you hit it.
Its angle of incidence as it hits the table, its angle of reflection as it takes off.
Why does top spin pull a shot down? The Magnus effect.
The weight of your paddle.
Now consider your arm.
The swing of your arm in your shoulder as you hit.
The swing of your hips as your paddle hits the ball.
“It's more about the people who come by and just hang out, and watch each other. It slows down passers-by. It makes for a little lingering spot where you pause what you’re doing, linger, talk with a stranger. The random rubbing of shoulders: that’s how I put my table forward.” --Alan Good, head of HENGE
interview with Ariel Kaminer, New York Times, 2011
Concrete hates tension, loves compression.
In plain English this means if you squeeze it, it is mighty, and if you stretch it, it breaks. Concrete that comes to a sharp edge invites wear and tear. Edges 90 degrees or under ask for trouble. Any glancing blow stands a chance to chip it.
Plus, it hurts if your body scrapes against a right-angled edge.
HENGE is all about the chance encounters that fill our public. So we avoided right angles when we designed our table. Let the encounters begin.
People play this ping pong variant, under different names, all around the world.
Play with any number of players, each has one paddle. There’s one ball for all. In general, hit ball and move to your right. When you flub a shot, you’re out. The last two players face off. He or she who wins two out of three points wins the Runaround. Everyone comes back to the table. In Berlin they hit the table with the stubby end of the paddle handle. The sound summons everyone. The whole cycle takes maybe 4 minutes.
Runaround is a game of attrition where you cooperate. If big, the group starts with a slow walk, then faster, then they run, then they scramble.
However, we like to play Runaway (or “Round the World”) as a game where you cooperate to keep everyone in a jog that circles the table. The volleys last a long time. The group gets in rhythm. Everyone listens to the sound of people’s breaths, the feet as they hit the ground, the pock sound of the paddle hits the ball. Everyone dreads the gong sound of the ball hitting the net. No slams—until the two-person final: Reserve the kill instinct until you have only one opponent—if you make it to the final.
One player holds ball, serves, moves along table counterclockwise, to the right. Receiver of serve returns shot, and moves to right.
Someday we’ll fill in the numbers:
% population with basic table tennis skills:
Table tennis players per capita:
Table tennis players per capita per zip code:
Table tennis players per capita per zip code per bracket:
Players area: 300 square feet minimum.
Cost to purchase:
Cost amortized over expected life cycle:
Maintenance cost concrete table tennis table, per year:
Maintenance cost tennis court, per year:
Size of tennis court:
Expected annual number of users, tennis court (male, female):
Annual users/size of court:
Expected annual number of users, basket court (male, female), includes watchers:
Maintenance cost basketball court, per year:
Size of bocce court:
Maintenance cost bocce court, per year:
Expected annual number of users, bocce court (male, female), includes watchers:
Cost of entry-level table tennis paddle and 20 1 star balls:
Cost of nice paddle, rubber, and 144 3-star balls:
Cost to train dog to retrieve table tennis balls but not nip opponents:
And so on.
Most people carry ping pong skills in muscle memory. When people play, they laugh. Players at every level flub a ton of shots—and make shots of sheer genius. Ping pong is ancient. (Actually it’s about 120.) It’s in our bones.
Put up a table and hands itch to play. People come. They linger and pass, watch, mix, and meet. They show off. They howl in protest if you invite them in—say they haven’t played in 30 years. (Somehow they always say 30, not 20 or 10.) 3 minutes later they play like they haven’t missed a day.
It’s a nice looking table; part sculpture. But more it’s about what it does to the space around it.
HENGE designs a ping pong table. A table with a sculptural side. Or a sculpture you can play ping pong on.
It’s a nice-looking piece.
But the table is more about the space around it—how to bring people into it. How to get your eyes off your phone. How to listen. How to play.
Designed for safety. Engineered to last. Made in the US.