When artist Johan Ström’s first Puckelboll installation was constructed in Malmö, Sweden, in 2009, it didn’t take long before it was in use. The construction workers couldn’t resist and right away began to kick around a soccer ball.

“One of the aims with the Puckelboll field is to serve as a catalyst for dialogue and interaction between people,” says Ström. And it works. Ström’s playful spaces in parks (the second was completed in Stockholm in 2014) truly offer something for all ages and levels of athletic ability. Additionally, when not in use, they offer an aesthetic experience in a public space.

So what exactly is Puckelboll? It is a trigger for creativity meant to inspire new game ideas. It is art and play in symbiosis. It’s fun to run around on the undulating surface and climb on surreal goal posts, but the installation also has an overarching message that may not be immediately apparent: Life is not a level playing field. Ström explains that Puckelboll is “a comment about injustice, inequality, imagination, and hope, and that the ball never really bounces the way you want it to in life.”

Puckelboll has layers of meaning, but it is not only a social commentary. Puckelboll provides a practical (and whimsical) venue that communities often lack, particularly in public spaces, where young people can fulfill their individual needs and desires to create and experience. The unusual characteristics of the Puckelboll field, including its unlevel surface, level the field for all who participate.

Shauna Dee is the information and communications coordinator at Forecast Public Art.

From Public Art Review #52, where this article originally appeared as “Game Theory.”