Defying Boundaries

What started as an interactive art project by Swedish artist Johan Ferner Ström has the potential to become an all-inclusive sport that does not discriminate by age, gender or physical ability.

“Puckelball” is an artistic impression of the phenomenon of European football (soccer) and how it resembles the playground of life, which is neither equilateral nor level.

The ball doesn’t go where you want, the different halves of the field are not the same for everybody and the goals are definitely not the same size.

The football field’s injustices are negated by the varying skills and strengths of the players. The unevenness on the field of play makes the game fair in a remarkable way that invites a more imaginative way to play. The possibility of play for girls and boys, old and young, skilled against unskilled, on equal conditions is encouraged.

But it started as a sculpture project. In an interview with the creator, PRB discovers what started this idea, and how it can be incorporated into mainstream programming.

PRB: When was the field in Sweden constructed?

Ström: The sculpture came to me as an idea back in 2002 in what was then Stockholm. After a change of government, it was decided that the land intended as the location for the project would not be used. The field was design-protected (trademarked) in 2003 before the project was actually presented to the city of Malmö in 2006; it was finished in 2009.

PRB: Can you give specifics on the field--how big is it? What is it made of?

Ström: The Puckelball arena is 25 by 40 meters (28 by 44 yards). Although additional fields may vary in proportion and design, the playing field should be around 1,000 square meters (roughly a quarter of an acre).

The plane is built of artificial turf with the underpinnings of rubber granules. The goals are individually designed and have a different location from one side of the field to the other. The pitch is built with artificial turf with the underpinnings of rubber granules that will tolerate hard usage. It is illuminated so people can play at night.

PRB: How is the game played?

Ström: I'm an artist. I don’t make the rules, I break them. Therefore, there are no rules. It’s up to the users. It should be spontaneous. The field is only a prerequisite.

PRB: What is the duration of the game?

Ström: Well, you know, it is life-long. The game and the philosophical idea belong to a life-long learning process. Why not start here and have some fun on the way?

PRB: Who is this game intended for?

Ström: All children between 3 and 73. I have taken the most popular of popular sports and through simple changes in the playing conditions, created a new idea of a game, or a new type of soccer or ball game, where one does not have to be the best to win because the elements of serendipity and luck are constantly present in play. The project has also been well-received by practitioners of extreme sports. Active soccer players who have seen the field have suggested the possibility of using it as a training field to practice unpredictability.

PRB: What awards has the project received?

Ström: The Siena Prize is Sweden's most prestigious award for landscape architecture. The Making Space Award is an international design award for innovative design and architecture for children and young people. The prize is awarded by the Children’s Organization in Scotland. And the idea is catching on--a second field will be built in Stockholm this year.

PRB: Do you use a “football” or what we refer to in the United States as a soccer ball?

Ström: Take any type of ball and make up teams; for example, there may be three or five or seven on each side, mixed (gender) teams or not. Make your own rules, maybe extras for certain types of goals, or play with football or soccer rules. Play with a stick. Play from a wheelchair.

One thing is for sure: you will need guts, humor and an open mind, and you will have a whole new ball field--a Puckelball field.

Johan Ferner Ström is an artist with Urban Art Solutions in Stockholm, Sweden. He can be reached via e-mail at

Bryan BuchkoComment