This collaborative art installation project took place at the BEAM Camp, a children’s summer camp in New Hampshire whose core mission is to educate children about the values associated with community, creation, collaboration, and craft through the execution of a building project each summer under the guidance of “project masters.” Since its inception in 2005, BEAM Camp solicits buildable art installation proposals from artists, designers, architects, and engineers from around the world through an international competition. For the summer of 2013, Swingtones was selected as the installation project for the campers to work on.
Swingtones is an interactive visual and acoustic installation where a series of custom designed wooden swings connected to sculptural metal chimes hang from a tree canopy in a forest clearing. When the swings are in use, the chimes activate and create ringing patterns that combine with the rhythms and motions of the swings. A wire pulley network translates the lateral movement of each swing to the vertical movement of the chimes. As the swing oscillates back and forth at various speeds and amplitudes, the hanging chimes respond proportionally in terms of sound and motion—the farther the swing, the bigger and merrier the sound gets. As the campers simultaneously ride all the swings, playing all chimes, they experience a symphony of floating bells up in the tree canopy.
For the overall project, Supermass Studio took the role of “project master” and developed the overall spatial concept of the art installation. Together with the collaborating Sage and Coombe Architects as co-project masters, more detailed fabrication concepts for wooden swings and metal chimes were developed and tested in full-scale mockup productions. The camp directors and counselors at the BEAM Camp worked very closely with the project masters during project development and played a critical role in translating the conceptual proposal into a buildable project for the campers. The project masters also spent a week at the camp to work hands-on with the campers to customize the swing designs and develop the necessary details for fabrication and installation.
Swingtones was designed as a unique art installation to be built entirely by 88 summer campers between the ages of 7 and 17 years old during the course of their 3 1/2 week camp stay. With a budget of $10,000 and the resources made available to these campers in a bucolic woodland setting, the installation proposal required thoughtfulness on how to mix and balance intellectual stimulation with the development of sustainable craftsmanship, environmental awareness, the creation of art, and the joy of simply having fun. While there were no specific requirements for the installation, it also needed to pose just the right amount of rigor and workload so that campers working 3 hours a day for 6 days a week during their stay can successfully complete and build the project in entirety. In the end and after a 6-month period of planning, designing, prototyping, close collaboration with camp directors and counselors, and fabrication, 88 children built and installed a set of 8 distinctive swings with 16 chime variations in a forest by a lake, all the while learning the values of creativity, collaboration, and environmental stewardship.