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.

The Public Game

Ping pong or table tennis, whatever—this is about how to get off your phone. It's about how you face and laugh with a person ten feet away whom you may not know. They might vote differently, and they’re still human.

We all know ping pong. It is in the club, the summer camp, the home garage, basement, the startup ad agency. It’s next to the couch where the coders sleep.

Now it goes public. In ancient Greece they called the public space the agora.

It's where you got a feel for what's going on with the people. 

What is a Henge?


henge is an oval ridge of earth and stone. A henge was the social media of prehistoric England. People built them for worship and ritual.  The most famous is Stonehenge. 

Four days a year in Manhattan, the setting sun dazzles everyone when it shines down one or two city streets at sunrise and sunset. The event is known as Manhattan Henge.

What we saw in the name

Nature. A henge stands for centuries. In New York City, in the built environment and where we live and work, we sometimes miss nature. Yet we see the city stride forward with modern park design and landscape architecture. The waterside parks are amazing here, please take the ferry to Governor's Island. 

People. Our goal is to get strangers to mix and find out what they have in common. 

Art. Stone Henge is early sculpture. It balances solid with emptiness, form with function.

Urban Design. People need to get out so they can see and hear each other. The prehistoric henge is like today's farmer's market. Today many people accept denser living, as long as they can walk, bike, and get to a park (and find a parking spot). A HENGE concrete ping pong table in a park today is part of that design movement toward the walkable city. 

Time. Stone lasts. A sunbeam walking across the ground marks time when it shines through the big slits of Stone Henge or the portholes in a HENGE table.

Evolution. Commerce put up the stone and steel canyons of Manhattan, London, Shanghai. The cities themselves work like a henge. They are monuments to human evolution through trade.

An Olympian Talks about Henge

Here are some great comment from a USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer and 1988 & 1992 US Olympic Team member Sean O'Neil:

“Alan, I was very excited to learn that my local park had recently installed two HENGE tables for our community.  As a two-time US Olympian, I am always looking for ways to use our sport to help bring people together.  The placing of these two pieces of “Playable Art” by our library has been a BIG HIT!

"At first I imagined that the ball would slide on the concrete surface and the bounce wouldn’t be all that true.  Boy, was I surprised when my teammate and I were able to execute all the strokes of modern table tennis with the heavy topspins and play from the back court.  I don’t know how you got the surface to be so consistent, but congratulations on the great bounce and outstanding workmanship.  I also work with Oregon Disabled Sports and thanks to this project we now have two permanent tables for our wheelchair players to use! 

If you are speaking with any other communities about installing your tables I would be happy to share my personal and professional views on the quality and playability of your product for both the disabled and able body groups.”

Sean and Tim playing on the Henge Cement table tennis table at the Beaverton Park in Portland, Oregon.

Landscape Architects

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.

Wind and Sun


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. 

What’s great about ping pong, Part II-- Physics

Consider the ping pong ball.

Its weight.

Its elasticity.

Its spin when you hit it.

The angle it hits the table, the angle it takes off.

Why does top spin pull a shot down? The Magnus effect.

Consider the weight of your paddle.

Now consider your arm.

Feel the weight of that arm.

Consider the swing of your arm in your shoulder socket as you hit the ball.

The swing of your hips as your paddle hits the ball.

Most sports come down to how you use the ground. And how your pelvis unites a chain of energy.

New York Times interview


“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

The Concrete Edge


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.