The Last Word: Better Block’s Krista Nightengale on June 13 Loneliness-Fighting Design Competition in Dallas

This “Connection Bench” was designed by Jordan Bowman and Danny Krafft to encourage head-to-head interactions with strangers stopping for a restful moment.

“We truly believe that creating spaces for people to bump into one another will ultimately end loneliness.”

Krista Nightengale
Executive Director
The Better Block Foundation
.…on the “Creating Connections” design competition happening Thursday at Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas.

Krista Nightengale

An epidemic of loneliness is sweeping the country, exacerbated by the pandemic and with lingering effects felt everywhere. The Better Block Foundation believes there’s a way forward—that “through beautiful and thoughtful design, we can create a more connected community.”

In partnership with Common Era and Humancraft, Better Block is hosting a “Creating Connections” design competition Thursday, June 13, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas. Aiming to “heal divides and create connections,” eight teams will put their plywood public infrastructure pieces to the test. The public is invited to sit in, play with, and move around the designs and see if they create connections—with five national judges choosing a winner.

The public will also have the chance to name a People’s Choice winner via online voting next week. Music, food, and entertainment will be on tap at Thursday’s event.

“We’re excited for everyone to get to see what the designers have been working so hard on,” says Krista Nightengale, executive director of the Better Block. “They have thought about how to bring people in, inspire conversations, overcome barriers, and ultimately, create connections with just a few pieces of plywood. We don’t know what the results of this competition will be, but we truly believe that creating spaces for people to bump into one another will ultimately end loneliness.”

[Image via Better Block Foundation]

Eight design teams from around the U.S.

Better Block said it put out an open invitation for designers, artists, architects, and innovators to explore “the profound impact of design on how people connect with others, the universe, and themselves in today’s world.” The challenge: Create a public infrastructure piece that “reimagines public spaces as catalysts for creating moments of connection, empathy, and shared experiences.”


Thursday’s competition aims to heal, unite, and inspire sustainability, inclusivity, and human and spiritual connection, Better Block said, building from the Jewish imperatives to improve our global community and honor the interconnectedness of all people and the planet.

Eight teams from around the U.S. have designed digitally fabricated furniture to create connections, and will be presenting them Thursday. They are:

  • The Shared S(h)elf Project: Isha Patel and Pavithra Sriram

  • Play On Woods: Simon Anderson

  • Team Rock Leaf: Lynn Trepp, Jill Sahlstrom, Ken Sahlstrom

  • N’ụlọ Adaeze Studio: Nnennia/N’ụlọ Adaeze

  • Zac Feltoon Design: Zac Feltoon

  • Plymorphic: Justin Childress, Angela Molinero Heras, Haritha Somanathan Muriyath, Jessica Burnham, Chris Cloud

  • BF Studios: Bunmi Fagbenro

  • Connection Bench: Jordan Bowman and Danny Krafft

The five judges scoring the designs will include Eve Pearlman, co-founder of Spaceship Media; Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, Hon. ASLA and principal of McAdams; Peter Goldstein, co-founder of CityLab High School; Yonah Schiller, chief R&D officer at Common Era; and Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, chief philanthropy officer of the Lubetsky Family Foundation.

Thanks-Giving Square is located at 1627 Pacific Avenue in Dallas. For more info, go here.

For more of who said what about all things North Texas, check out Every Last Word.

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