The Swings: A New Interactive Musical Installation

NYC families soar at new exhibit, Brookfield Place

Swings tend to be a big hit with all ages. But giant swings that play music while you sway back and forth? And deliver up water views? Oh, yeah.

Now that my oldest child is 10, the list of activities he enjoys with his little sister is dwindling. When The Swings, a free, interactive musical swing set, was installed right next to one of our favorite playgrounds in lower Manhattan, they were both pumped to visit.

Open daily through July 7 this year, The Swings: An Exercise in Musical Collaboration features 10 swings that trigger sounds as riders swing back and forth. Each swing represents one of four instruments—piano, harp, guitar or vibraphone—and when multiple swings are in motion they produce rich melodies. Created by Montreal-based interactive design studio Daily tous les jours, The Swings encourages people of all ages to interact and collaborate, fostering a sense of community and whole lot of fun.

Set alongside the Hudson River at Brookfield Place, The Swings installation is impressive upon first sight. My kids tore through the plaza, brimming with anticipation and excitement. First step: a waiver must be completed for each person. Tip: Submit yours online in advance of your visit to sail through that line. Although the swing seats are oversized, the swings are as easy to maneuver as they would be at any playground. Adults are welcome to push younger ones who need some help. Children under 36 inches must ride on their care providers' laps (click here for a complete list of rules). There are soft mats below, but if you have an adventurous one on your hands be aware that the swings go as high as the swinger pumps (super high swinging and jumping are actively discouraged by the attendants). Once kids select a swing and start moving, a pre-recorded melody emerges from that seat and combines with the sounds being generated by other swingers. My little guy had such a blast running from swing to swing listening for the different sounds his efforts were producing (popping back in line to give someone else a turn), he barely noticed the gorgeous views of Jersey City and the boats bobbing by.

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As beautiful as the music was when all 10 swings were in motion, watching the faces of the participants was even lovelier. We visited the installation during the week and my children found themselves swinging among business-suited grown-ups on lunch break, who were just as giddy as the kids. Most visitors, adults included, tried out more than one swing to see how the sounds differed and in the process ended up chatting with the person on the next swing. Rare is the opportunity to connect with strangers in our beloved New York City and my children loved it.

When we visited this cool exhibit there was a modest line, but with 10 swings it moved quickly. During peak times, visitors have a suggested five minute time limit on the swings, which people seem to respect. Since watching is as much fun as actually swinging, no one minded waiting a few minutes. There are clean bathrooms just inside the Brookfield Place mall, as well as a terrific food court just an escalator ride up. Grab a sandwich and make a day of your visit to The Swings—a day for the whole family (yes, the experience will make even your teenager smile). 

Looking for more to do in the area? Try one of these 25 suggestions, hit one of the two nearby splash pads, or head indoors at the pretty Battery Park City branch of the New York Public Library.

Grown-ups have just as much fun on the swings as kids.

Creators at Daily tous les jours aspire to bring strangers together in meaningful ways and they originated the concept of this interactive installation in 2011 with 21 Swings in Montreal. The project has gained such momentum over the years that it evolved into The Swings 2016 U.S. tour. NYC is the third stop on the tour.

The Swings is open daily from noon to 8pm through July 7, and is located at 230 Vesey Street at Brookfield Place. You can get there on the A, C, 1, 2 or 3 subway to Chambers Street or the E to the World Trade Center stop and head west.

Photos by the author.


Brookfield Place -- Waterfront Plaza
230 Vesey Street
New York 40° 42' 46.9404" N, 74° 0' 55.7496" W