10/100/1000: And the winner is ...

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"Install simple swings in moderate traffic areas with trees and parks..."

Not all of us on the judging panel were immediately taken with Reuben Pressman's idea. Swings? It seemed too simple — tossed-off, frivolous, even childish. But as we talked — and as we got to know more about Pressman and the inspiration behind his proposal — we saw its simplicity as a virtue, and its sense of play as a potentially powerful social tool.

Pressman, 22, a senior at USF St. Pete majoring in entrepreneurship (with a triple minor in economics, international business and leadership), had already seen what the swings could do. His roommate had installed one on campus as part of a class project, and Pressman suggested they hang a few in public parks "to bring people who didn't know each other together." The materials for each swing — a two-by-four painted bright red and a length of rope — cost under $10 at Home Depot, and using his roommate's newfound expertise in swing knots they hung one from a banyan tree in Straub Park around Christmastime of last year.

Within minutes, he says, "we watched people run up to it and use it." The city took it down soon thereafter; another one in Lassing Park in Southeast St. Pete stayed up a week. But the potential was there: the swings did indeed bring random people together with nothing more in common than the fact that they "all know what a swing is and know how to use it."

Pressman was sold on the idea. "I just saw the spark in people's faces."

And because the 10/100/1000 competition, in his view, was about "bringing the community together," he thought the Swings project would be a perfect fit.

Of course, the project so far has been a guerrilla affair; that's part of its appeal (hey look, a swing, where'd that come from?). But Pressman envisions it becoming a city-sanctioned program, and besides applying his 10/100/1000 prize to materials ($1,000 would buy a lot of swings), he wants to use it to help him navigate the various logistical challenges (permits, safety checks and the like) a more formal effort would present.

Swings is reminiscent of those public art projects in which artist-painted fiberglass animals (cows, pelicans, geckos) suddenly appear throughout city downtowns, with the crucial difference that the swings are interactive.

And that's key. Peter Kageyama, the first of the 10/100/1000 judges to champion Swings, was, um, swung by its playfulness. "Play is an essential part of healthy relationships," he says, echoing a primary theme in his new book about the love of cities, "It is also an essential part of a healthy relationship with your city."

We congratulate Reuben Pressman on his sincerely playful proposal — and we're hoping before long to play on the swings.

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