Salvage Swings

Architecture Firm(s): Somewhere Studio, LLC

Owner:  Figment NYC

Location: Roosevelt Island, New York

Category: Up to $150,000 in construction cost (category one)

While primarily aimed at children, who do not often get to experience spaces designed just for them, this amalgam of play and responsible reuse is a delight for all ages. The winner of an international pavilion competition on Roosevelt Island, a narrow strip of land that sits in New York’s East River, Salvage Swings explores the ways in which materials can be diverted from landfills and turned into a source of respite and fun.

The competition brief called for pavilions focused on sustainable building practices to be installed on the island in the summer months as part of a larger arts festival. The design needed to accommodate a number of constraints, including no penetration of the ground and a site that is only accessible by foot. Salvage Swings’ cross-laminated timber was reclaimed from shipping pallets from a dormitory construction site in the architects’ home state. A dozen repeating modules house swings and offer views of the surrounding landscape. While it was installed on the island for the summer of 2019, its modular design and prefabricated finger joint connections allow the project to be quickly broken down into manageable pieces, flat packed, and rebuilt on new sites, in endless configurations.

“A tremendously successful project, and a great amenity for the public. I love the reuse of materials and the many different ways the ‘building blocks’ can be combined.” - Jury comment

Enticing children to engage with its simple forms and natural materials, Salvage Swings prompts countless opportunities for interaction. In its first configuration, a triangle, children swung inside the individual volumes while their parents formed a second ring of activity, snapping photos and conversing with one another. A true sense of sanctuary was often found in the child-scaled inner triangle, where children gathered to play while eagerly awaiting an open swing. Integrated lighting turned the pavilion into a beacon at night, visible from the banks of the river in both Manhattan and Queens. The project was installed a second time, in a linear arrangement, for a symposium on the advancement of mass-timer research, followed by a third installation at a children’s museum this spring.

“The novel design shows great clarity, rigorous thought, and careful execution. The reuse of materials, calibration of material use, and construction techniques deliver a project in which the whole is greater than the parts, but where the parts have been given equal consideration to the whole.” - Jury comment

Additional information

Engineer - Structural: Guy Nordenson and Associates  

Lighting Design: TM Light  

Fabricator: Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design Fablab  


Melissa Harlan, AIA (Jury Chair), Christner Inc., St. Louis, MO

Mark English, AIA, Mark English Architects, San Francisco, CA

Meryati Blackwell, AIA, ASID, LEED, Marlon Blackwell Architects, Fayetteville, AR

Upali Nanda, PhD, HKS Research | Faculty Taubman U Mich., Ann Arbor, MI

Brian Korte, AIA, Clayton & Little, San Antonio, TX


Figment NYC, Emerging New York Architects (ENYA)

Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY)

Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation (RIOC)

University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design

Image credits

Salvage Swings

James Leng

Salvage Swings

James Leng

Salvage Swings

James Leng

Salvage Swings

James Leng

Salvage Swings

Somewhere Studio