When the playscape Swing Time popped up in Boston in 2014, visitors started having too much fun. The 20 hoop-shaped swings suspended from a white shade structure light up when in use, glowing purple with vigorous motion. Its creators at Höweler + Yoon Architecture had imagined people would swing in ones and twos. Instead groups tried to pile on together, hoping to share the sway and have a conversation.
Susannah Walker, co-founder of the newly created British charity Make Space for Girls, saw in Swing Time something that would have delighted her 17-year-old self. “At the end of the summer holidays my friend and I ran out of money,” Walker wrote in a March post. “We had nothing to do and there was nowhere to go. So we’d go and hang out on the swings in the early evening and chat as the light slowly faded into dusk. It was better than sitting around at home.”
She highlights Swing Time to illustrate two points: One, girls love swings. And two, there aren’t enough swings made for teenage girls. “They are almost always placed with the equipment for younger children, so that if teenagers use them they are seen as invaders.”
There also aren’t enough spaces for teen girls. Where aren’t teenagers seen as invaders? They are too big, too loud, too old for playgrounds, at least in the eyes of parents; and too young, too loud, too broke for restaurants, bars and stores. The problem is magnified for teen girls who, surveys show, are less likely to use the basketball courts and skate parks intended for adolescents, and run the risk of harassment, or worse, when they appear in adult spaces.