Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Swing Sets Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore

The 20-swing Megaswing at Anna C. Verna playground. Photo by Caroline Gutman/Bloomberg.

A swing can be the simplest thing: two chains attached to a board, a rope knotted through a disc, a chair suspended from above. Swings appear on ancient Greek vases as instruments of leisure, and in eighteenth century Thailand as vehicles for competition.

That’s the thing about swings: They can be sociable, but they are also physical. This inviting duality has often been undermined by public safety standards, which discourage swings for more than one person and mandate that they be far apart. After a certain age, swinging solo loses its thrill.

But at Anna C. Verna Playground at Philadelphia’s FDR Park, on the south side of the city, the largest swing set in North America was designed to test those limits. Not by creating unsafe play, but by transforming those standards into something challenging, unusual, beautiful and rewarding for swingers of all ages.