Nightmare Playgrounds
March 26, 2008 10:19 PM   Subscribe

Nightmare Playgrounds! A small gallery of terrifically upsetting playground sculptures (largely from former Soviet states). via Graham Linehan's blog Why, That's Delightful!
posted by incomple (34 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The best is the enemy of the good. Yeah, some are crappy, some are creepy, but better that the kids have some bad art than no art at all.

It would be worse, I think, to go for the antiseptic and uncontroversial and bland enough to be unremarkable and unoffensive to everybody route that characterizes US playgrounds.
posted by orthogonality at 10:29 PM on March 26, 2008

posted by rokusan at 10:29 PM on March 26, 2008

thanks for this.... my stomach hurts from LOLing, and I have to say that I'll take an antiseptic and uncontroversial playground over a statue of a woman bleeding from her eyes.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:31 PM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

In fact, after maybe six pictures, I wussed out. At least I was warned. Good post.
posted by humannaire at 10:32 PM on March 26, 2008

Can't sleep, Nightmare Playgrounds will eat me!
posted by amyms at 10:36 PM on March 26, 2008

Where do I get one of those inflatable anal elephants? I bet if I dragged one of those out to a fair I'd make a thousand bucks before they shut me down.
posted by crapmatic at 10:43 PM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm still trying to find the words for why I think this is so awesome. Is it the fact that it's a playground that says, by its very design, "STAY THE HELL OUT!"? Giant predator statues may be the right way to approach toxic site marking problem.
posted by agent at 10:44 PM on March 26, 2008

Some of these are brilliant. Thanks for the post!
posted by vacapinta at 10:52 PM on March 26, 2008

These guys are awesome! (are the eyes electric or is that reflected light?)
posted by vaportrail at 10:53 PM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I took my daughter to a playground on the weekend where it's IMPOSSIBLE to injure yourself.

I hate risk management, it tales so much fun away, and risk I suppose, but four foot high monkey bars, seesaw (teeter totter) that has 2 inches of teeter, nerf-like floor covering- man kids of today have a sucky outdoors.
posted by mattoxic at 10:53 PM on March 26, 2008

moxiedoll - Is it too much to hope that the bleeding eyes weren't part of the original design?

This one just freaks me the hell out.

*shudders, wanders off in search of pictures of fluffy, soul-cleansing kittens*
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 10:53 PM on March 26, 2008

Er, soul-cleansing pictures of fluffy kittens?
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 10:55 PM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Haha! I love some of these. For too long, the Cute Cartel has monopolized childhood! I say bring in some competition and let the (small) people choose!

I would totally love those little black things with the glowing eyes. The only thing that would make this better would be to put them in a campground instead of a park. That way they could truly be the stuff of nightmares.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:03 PM on March 26, 2008

Most of those pictures appear to be public art installations, not playgrounds, and the supposed creepiness and implied bad design is mostly vandalization and decay.

It's neat to look at, sure - but isn't this part of what's become a tradition of people grabbing photos off of russian forums and recontextualizing them for foreign audiences?
posted by unmake at 11:49 PM on March 26, 2008

Good post. Thanks.
posted by vronsky at 11:59 PM on March 26, 2008

These guys are awesome! (are the eyes electric or is that reflected light?)

Those are "hot dogs" at Björns Trädgård in Södermalm/Stockholm. The eyes are indeed glowing and the dogs are electrically heated. I think they are there for the parents to sit on - not freezing their asses off - while the kids play in the park.
posted by uandt at 12:23 AM on March 27, 2008 [4 favorites]

These remind me of the Mirabell Garden Dwarves in Salzburg, Austria. North America needs more creepy statues.
posted by krf at 12:29 AM on March 27, 2008

mattoxic, That nerf-like floor covering isn't bad if done well, but I've seen many playgrounds in Malaysia that use it (because a proper Modern Playground just ought to have it) without sufficient budget to do it right. That stuff is expensive, so it is used only at heavy wear points under slides and swings. The nerf flooring square is installed on a cement pad and held by cement edging. And to save cost it is far too small, maybe 40cm by 40cm. Thus you wind up with *exposed concrete edges* well within the fall zone of these swings and slides. Far safer and better would be good ol' dirt. At least with dirt there is no false expectation of safety. Good thing Malaysians don't like to sue. I'd share pictures but that is Lethal Playgrounds, a slightly different topic from Nightmare Playgrounds... Cool post, btw.
posted by BinGregory at 12:31 AM on March 27, 2008

Those are "hot dogs" at Björns Trädgård in Södermalm/Stockholm. The eyes are indeed glowing and the dogs are electrically heated. I think they are there for the parents to sit on - not freezing their asses off - while the kids play in the park.

NO WAY. I said out loud, at work, that they are the Night Bears. "Ooo, Night Bears! I want them!" And the truth isn't going to change my mind.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:49 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah. With a couple of exceptions (the strait-jacketed, gagged boy for one) but many of them are pretty cool. I'd like to see what your typical modern playground will look like after forty years of neglect.
posted by alexei at 2:07 AM on March 27, 2008

Red. Why did they have to make the goatselephant red on the inside?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:40 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Huh. Usually when I run into a "wow, look at this scary playground in Russia" post anywhere, it turns out have a lot of sculptures of characters from Cheburashka, who is sort of like the soviet Mickey Mouse. He's an adorable bear-looking creature with big ears, who hangs out with a crocodile named Gena. Here's one of the Cheburashka cartoons on youtube--they're beautifully done stop-motion from the 70's.

Anyway, I was suprised that these are all genuinely creepy pieces of playground sculpture and not just a character that we don't recognize.
posted by Tesseractive at 7:18 AM on March 27, 2008

While that first one is terribly depressing, and a couple are downright creepy, most of these just look like people wanted a community art project, or like playgrounds in poor neighbourhoods that were built by the community because, well, weren't no one else gonna do it otherwise. Some of the amateur sculptures and paint jobs are actually quite charming, and I could imagine kids having an easier time developing relationships with them than the immaculate shiny crap we've come to associate with "good" playgrounds.

The things that creep kids out and the things that creep adults out aren't always the same. Kids can often find the cuteness or fascination in something we might find utterly grotesque, but run screaming from the room when Brian Eno comes on the stereo (yes, I know, the snark for that one pretty much writes itself).

And come on, this is just cool.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:33 AM on March 27, 2008

Next time I'm teaching a particularly hateful child I am going to imagine him or her here. Or here (after dark). "You want mommy and daddy to come get you? You have to be nicer to Teacher...." (evil laugh)

GREAT post.
posted by nax at 10:20 AM on March 27, 2008

This one reminds of that scene in Sin city, where that murderer gets tied to a tree and, you know... yikes!
posted by bitteroldman at 10:51 AM on March 27, 2008

"Hot Dogs", "Night Bears", whatever they're called, somebody owes Hayao Miyazaki some dough.
posted by thebellafonte at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2008

shuderrific. thanks for this!
posted by ericbop at 11:40 AM on March 27, 2008

The first thing that came to mind ... Back when I used to do psychedelics on a regular basis, we'd go hang out at graveyards, playgrounds, etc. (mostly at night). Sculptures like this one or this one would have made such outings that much more surreal.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:27 PM on March 27, 2008

Tesseractive, some of these ARE indeed characters you may not recognize but Russian children will. This one looks like Ivan Tsarevich, a prince who is the protagonist of many Russian fairy tales. These guys are the fox and the crow from one of Aesop's fables, which is well-known by Russian children. The weird thing they are holding is a popular Soviet processed cheese called Druzhba (literally "Friendship", which adds to the humor and irony of the sculpture). This odd family gathering is illustrating another fairy tale about a turnip. And this is Doctor Aibolit ("Doctor Owithurts"), who, if my childhood memories are accurate, was actually a nice doctor that helped animals.
posted by wretched_rhapsody at 3:26 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

For more playground/sculpture weirdness, you can check out these livejournal communities (second one is more sculpture/adult oriented while first one is more focused on playgrounds).
posted by wretched_rhapsody at 3:34 PM on March 27, 2008

My bad, wretched_rhapsody, especially since I've had my partner read Doctor Aibolit to me, now that I think of it... My partner studied Russian so I absorbed some stuff from her but clearly not that much.

Do you think the statues were all originally painted those colors though? The form of many of those human figures is pretty normal but the bright red paint on the faces of some of them is kind of unsettling.
posted by Tesseractive at 5:41 PM on March 27, 2008

No, I don't think the paint colors are original... My guess would be that it was more of a "we have orders to put a fresh coat of paint on these, but all we've got left is red" situation. The bleeding eyes I'm sure are a just a prank.
posted by wretched_rhapsody at 8:04 AM on March 28, 2008

I love the "hot dogs" in the Swedish park. Heated benches, what a great idea. There is a close up of one of the dog's heads on this blog.
It's dated January 4, 2008 and titled Björns trädgård.
posted by BoscosMom at 7:39 PM on March 28, 2008

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