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Anatomy of a Swing Park

November 19, 2013

Swing ParkEnjoy this guest blog post from Patrick McDonnell.

About a year ago, I saw an article about musical, light-weight swings at a bus stop in Montreal. Fascinated, I began researching and stumbled upon a few other swing projects like the Water-Fall Swing by Dash 7 and the Red Swing Project. After learning about the other projects, I was inspired to create something similar in Dallas that brought back childhood memories and was affordable.

In April 2013, I went to an outdoor market held in an empty parking lot, and it occurred to me that the lot would go back to being empty as soon as the market was over. A light bulb went off. Why not put a swing set in an empty parking lot, so that the space could be useful and active after market hours—and yet still be used as a parking lot during the day and weekends?

In June, I came across the HOLSTEE Fellowship while reading articles on GOOD. HOLSTEE, the folks who wrote the "Go Live Your Life" Manifesto, were giving away monthly $1,000 grants to individuals to seed their dream project. I entered the mobile "Swing Park" - a pop-up swing set to transform a parking lot into a park.

I made a 60-second video, and was selected to compete for the public vote on Facebook. People in Dallas helped me campaign from July 1–10 and I won! In August, I received the grant and began to build.

Building the Swing Set

Initially, I wanted to use reclaimed wood to build big, elegant two-person swings inspired by visual artist Ann Hamilton's "The Event of a Thread," a large-scale art installation in New York City. But function quickly trumped form since the swing was going to be outside and had to be mobile. Instead of a wood frame, I decided to use a metal one and made it detachable.

I bought most of the materials on a playground equipment website SwingSetMall.com, and purchased the metal poles and sandbags at The Home Depot, spending a total of $975.37 of the $1,000 HOLSTEE grant.

Here are the materials I used:

  • 4 CoPoly Deluxe Residential Belt Seat with 8'6" Plastisol Chain $195.80
  • 2 End Frame Fitting $269.90
  • 1 Middle Fitting Frame $169.95
  • 8 Galvanized Ductile Iron Pipe Beam Swing Hanger $143.60
  • 8 5/16" S-Hook $6.00
  • 8 2 3/8" X 10' Corner Post $147.76
  • 12 60lbs Quikrete Sandbags $42.36

The Swing Park debuted at this year’s PARK(ing) Day celebration in Dallas. PARK(ing) Day is a global event where citizens reclaim a parking space and transform it into a mini park to promote people-friendly streets and the importance of public spaces. Parks range from yoga classes to pet adoption areas to book giveaways to lounges.

I spent about three hours pre-assembling the swing structure. On PARK(ing) Day, it took twenty minutes to unload it and set it up.

I’m happy to report a few people have contacted me about creating their own Swing Parks. In Dallas, I’m continuing to pop-up the Swing Park around town at different events and eventually want to transition it to a more permanent venue.

My hope is that Swing Parks become a new way to create mini play areas in neglected urban environments like empty parking lots and bus stops, desolate underpasses, dead plazas, or other overlooked city corners that could use a bit of whimsy and fun and serve as a place for people to come together.

Swing Park

Swing Park

Swing Park

Bright Ideas, swings, parking day, dallas, swing