Our lives have become so self-involved that we rarely interact with fellow urbanites. Montreal-based design studio Daily Tous Les Jours aims to change all that – by revitalizing an anonymous urban space with 21 swings.
As we grow up, we gradually lose some of the fun activities that rocked our world when we were kids. In Downtown Montreal, the 21 Swings project aims to reinject fun and play into the lives of passers-by: The installation’s 21 swings make up a giant collective instrument where each swing plays its own set of notes.
“21 Swings aims to bring out the kid in everyone,” claims Melissa Mongiat, co-founder of Daily Tous Les Jours, when asked about the collective’s outsized Bauhaus-style playground for all generations. “When you swing alone, you are a solo instrument; when you swing together, you are a band.”
New movement in public space
21 Swings emerged from a cooperation between Daily Tous Les Jours and the Université de Québec à Montréal’s Science Faculty. Looking for a space that was busy, yet relatively unattractive, they found their ideal proving ground right next to Montreal’s opera and Science Faculty, where a large, diverse crowd – commuters, tourists, students, and homeless – share a nondescript sidewalk near a major traffic node.
“Our aim was to encourage ‘movement’ in a public space that seemed ‘unmovable,’ and to inspire interaction and collaboration between people.” Here, 21 Swings triggers many such interactions like smiles, encouragements, and small conversations between strangers. Not only between active participants, but also bystanders and passers-by.
Swinging in synchronicity for collective experiences
“In all our projects, we aim for different levels of engagement. We see all sorts of interactions. With 21 Swings, the ultimate level of engagement is reached when people swing in synchronicity — something we often tend to do naturally,” adds Mongiat.
The concept is simple: When more people swing together, the music also sounds way better. This, in turn, draws a bigger crowd, leading to additional interaction – the guiding principle of any project by the Canadian design studio, such as the “Amateur Intelligence Radio” in St. Paul, Minnesota or the littleBits Store in Soho, New York City.
“We always aim to bring people together who might not meet otherwise. We want to generate more of these daily shared experiences. In anything we do, we try to move the unmovable and highlight the benefit of cooperation.”
People need the chance to meet
This makes public space a natural starting point for Daily Tous Les Jours. “It is important to provide an icebreaker, so people can create something magical,” says Mongiat. And this is where 21 Swings truly comes into their own by helping us to open up, using one of the oldest tricks in the book: jointly created and experienced sounds.
Incidentally, one of the studio’s biggest inspirations is American philosopher Michael Sandel. According to him, democracy does not need perfect equality, but it does require that citizens share a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions can encounter one another in the course of daily life.
An ambitious goal and sizeable project that certainly thrives on local initiatives. Like this one from Montreal where – at least on the project’s 21 swings – everyone can be equal.
All images incl. header image: Daily Tous Les Jours