Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman creates high art for short people. His kid-friendly projects have debuted all over the world and his latest, a playground in Shenzhen, China dubbed the “Kraken,” is worth a second, third, and fourth look — maybe even a bit of climbing as well. The installations, which serves as a reminder that U.S. playgrounds are completely lame, has the wit of a well-placed emoji.
Commissioned by a Chinese real estate company, the Vanke Group, the Kraken is a maze. Beginning at the end of the tentacles, children and adults climb a series of powerful, hand-woven fabric ladders and tunnels inside the Kraken’s head, leading to a giant play area under the octopus’s hat. Hofman collaborated with UAP, an international urban design art team, to find materials strong enough to hold people without losing the woven look.
In a sense, Hofman owes a lot to Jeff Koons, who created the balloon dog, and Tom Otterness, who works in bronze to create soft-seeming animals and figures. But his vision is frequently grander and weirder than his influences. He seems to play the role of the giant toddler wandering around the world, leaving toys behind. It’s a unique approach to making cities fun for both children and adults. And it works.