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How Swings Can Make You Happy And More Intelligent

Enjoying Iwona Kosicka's swing chair
Enjoying Iwona Kosicka's swing chair
Annemarie Ballschmiter

BERLIN — The sight of a swing causes not only children, but also many adults, to impulsively sit down, push off with their feet and swing back and forth for as long as possible.

This very impulse was a stroke of luck for Oliver-Selim Boualam and Lukas Marstaller, when the management of the Cologne Furniture Trade Fair prohibited visitors from using their black steel swing exhibit, citing insurance reasons. This allowed the Karlsruhe-based designers to focus on explaining their concept to trade fair attendees, rather than on acting like primary school teachers looking after students in the school yard during recess.

Swings are of interest to designers not only because they are toys, but also because they provide seating without legs. In addition, they are not rooted to the spot, but create a certain dynamic by simply floating in space. Polish designer Iwona Kosicka developed a reinvention of what is probably the world's most famous hanging seat — Eero Aarnios' 1960s "Bubble Chair," a Perspex hemisphere suspended by a chain from the ceiling — with her own version, called "Swing."

"Swing" is, in principle, just a wooden hoop that has been broadened in its designated seating area. To the designer, however, it symbolizes a combination "of childlike enthusiasm and elegance." Two of these chairs are to be found at the Red Bull offices in Stockholm.

Swinging makes you happy because it creates a state that oscillates between weightlessness and gravity. Its movement is a gentle up and down and forwards and backwards, while the action of swinging itself alternates between soft rocking and reckless swaying.

[rebelmouse-image 27090202 alt="""" original_size="800x600" expand=1]

Eero Aarnios' iconic "Bubble Chair" — Photo: Hans B./GFDL

Karin Schmidt-Ruhland, professor of Gaming and Educational Design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle, claims to understand why swinging is important for both children and adults.

"It is fun, and it gives your body awareness and sensory and special orientation a work out. Your body is moving, as is the world around you. It creates self-confidence and courage," she says.

She also notes that a swing's design is very simple, as "it is actually made up of just a plank and rope. Two holes are drilled into either end of the plank to stabilize the swing. That's all there is to it."

The courage to go higher and higher and, for the more advanced swing aficionado, to let go at the height of the arc and be catapulted into nothingness. By now, it is well-known that swinging not only makes children happy, but also cultivates their intelligence, seeing as the swinging motion stimulates their sense of balance and thereby supports their motor skills development, which is intrinsically linked to cognitive development.

In Cologne, trade fair visitors curiously circle the object titled "As High As Best," probably asking themselves how comfortable the u-shaped steel tube, with its seat and handle combo, really is. After all, they aren't allowed to test it.

"It is much more comfortable than you would think at first glance," says Boualam, who, together with his partner Marstaller, is known under the pseudonym of "Butternutten AG" (Butter Whores Inc.) and is something between an artist and a designer.

[rebelmouse-image 27090203 alt="""" original_size="275x412" expand=1]

"As High As Best" — Photo: kkaarrllss

"As High As Best" is part of a project that saw a kiosk, situated at the last stop of the Karlsruhe S-Bahn train line No. 5, redeveloped by the designers, who created this piece of furniture specifically for the space. They fastened 16 hanging chairs to the ceiling around the octagonal room.

"We had envisaged a stay of 15 minutes per person because the space is always in flux, but people actually spent up to an hour on the swings," Boualam says.

The swing played with people's tendency to use improvised seating in public spaces, proving them with a concrete and dynamic shape.

It's nice to think that in the future, all S-Bahn, U-Bahn and bus stops could be fitted with swings. Boualam and Marstaller's steel tube design was developed to allow for uncomplicated large scale production. Unfortunately, however, the current limited edition counts just 20 pieces, and the designers are still looking for a manufacturer.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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