Atlas Obscura's Essential Guide to Building a Giant - Atlas Obscura
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Atlas Obscura’s Essential Guide to Building a Giant

From head, to hands, to our very reproductive organs, people have long built massive monuments celebrating the various remarkable parts of our very own bodies. 

Join us as we sweep the globe, highlighting the most unique, impressive, and simply odd anatomical parts, bringing them all together to take a look at what the most monumental, statuesque human in the world might look like based on the loose body parts the world has chosen to commemorate. This week the Atlas Obscura attempts to build its very own giant! 

GIANT LENIN HEAD OF ULAN UDE
Ulan Ude, Russia

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The head of Vladimir Lenin (via Wikimedia)

Towering above a public square in Ulan Ude, Russia, overseeing visiting tourists and people taking wedding photos, is the stoic bronze visage known simply as the Giant Lenin Head of Ulan Ude. Having taken on a dark grey patina over decades of Siberian winters, the Soviet leader’s cranium rests atop a tall stone cairn, forever stuck without a body. 

Built in 1970 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Lenin’s birth, the monument measures 25 feet tall and weighs 42 tons. The statue is the largest replica of Lenin’s head ever built and was initially put into construction after a nationwide vote on the project, beating out dozens of competing visions. The locals jokingly refer to the landmark as “the world’s largest Jewish head,” not for political reasons, but due to the snowy yarmulke that builds on the head in the winter.

There are a number of oversized faces carved around the world, but few massive heads. When building a giant from parts across the globe, this massive bronze noggin stands above the rest. 

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Side view of the Lenin’s giant scowl. (photograph by Nathan Messer via Flickr)

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The monument is as tall as some buildings. (photograph by Nathan Messer via Flickr)

GIANT BOXING ARM OF JOE LOUIS
Detroit, Michigan

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Joe Louis could knock you out. (via Wikimedia)

It’s unfortunate that economic woes cannot simply be punched into submission because Detroit, Michigan’s Giant Boxing Arm of Joe Lewis could easily punch the perpetually beleaguered city back to financial health. This huge hanging tribute to the late boxer may be one of the largest and most controversial appendages in the world. 

To honor the Detroit-born world heavyweight champion, Sports Illustrated Magazine donated $350,000 to commission this titanic arm, which was built in the middle of the city where it could be seen by pedestrians and commuters alike. However when the 8,000-pound right jab was unveiled in 1987, it instantly incited controversy from the local population who thought the huge fist was representative of militant black power.

Despite the strong views regarding the statue, it remains to this day and continues to act as a stirring reminder of Joe Louis’ important legacy as one of America’s first nationally-known black athletes. There is no arm stronger or more prestigious  for our cobbled colossus.

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The arm is nearby “The Spirit of Detroit” statue. (photograph by Maya C, via Flickr) 

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The inscription on the stub of the arm. (via Wikimedia)

‘LE POUCE’ (THE GIANT THUMB SCULPTURE)
Paris, France

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A sunny day around the thumb. (photograph by Chris Waits, via Flickr)

Modern financial districts are often home to modern art installations and La Defense, Paris’ largest business center, is no exception. Smack in the middle of the neighborhood is a monument dedicated to one of the most important pieces of human anatomy: “Le Pouce,“ a thumb sculpture as tall as a house. The massive opposable digit is a constant reminder of the tiny piece of us that separates our species from most others.

The 40-foot-tall thumb was built by César Baldaccini, an artist known for his fantastic sculptural depictions of natural forms, and is an actual recreation of the creator’s thumb. César created many enlarged versions of his own thumbs which can be visited around the world in places such as Shanghai and California, but the 18-ton phalange in Paris is by far the most massive. 

While a seemingly small portion of the body as a whole, the opposable thumb is essential, thus we would be remiss to omit it from our giant.

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The thumb by night. (photograph by Matthew Kenwrick, via Flickr) 

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The statue even includes the artist’s fingerprint. (photograph by Glindsay65, via Flickr)

HAESINDANG PENIS PARK
Samcheok-Si, South Korea

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One of the park’s many phallic totems. (via Wikimedia) 

Nestled at the top of a hill outside of the South Korean city of Samcheok-Si, lies a collection of sculptures that resemble rustic totem poles at first glance, but on closer inspection reveal a uniformly phallic shape. These reproductive representations are all part of the Haesindang Penis Park, a sculpture garden dedicated to the male anatomy.

The park was established in response to a local legend involving a couple that was separated when the bride-to-be was swept to sea, after which the locals were no longer able to catch fish. Believing that it was the virgin girl’s restless soul that had cursed them, the locals began leaving wooden carvings of phalluses on the hill where she died to appease her inability to consummate her marriage or reproduce, and the fish returned. From these beginnings, the park now contains nearly 50 penises depicted in styles ranging from playful animated towers to oversized studies in realism. Despite the chuckles of most visitors, the park also contains a studied folk museum exploring the artistic tradition of the penis from around the world.

The Haesindang Penis Park contains many huge versions of one of the more delicate parts of the male body, so our jumbled giant has no shortage of options when it comes to choosing its massive manhood. 

article-image(photograph by amanderson2/Flickr)

HAND OF THE DESERT
Antofagasta, Chile

article-imageThe hand of the desert with a bicycle for scale. (photograph by Houston Marsh, via Flickr

Reaching out of the sands of the Chile’s Atacoma desert is the landmark Mano del Desierto, or Hand of the Desert, a titanic set of digits that appears to be partially submerged. Despite the continuous application of graffiti, the grand sense of a lone hand reaching towards the heavens loses none of its impact.

The 36-foot hand was built of cement covering an armature of iron wires, and has sustained the fluctuating extremes of the desert since its unveiling in 1992. The site is located over 40 miles from the nearest town of Antofagasta, and does not feature any guided tours or amenities, simply its statuesque solitude. One can reach the hand by car as it is located on a stretch of the Pan-American Highway, and most find its loneliness among the unmarked desert to be one if its most striking features.

The human tendency towards existential searching, represented by the Hand of the Desert, should help give our giant that ineffable quality of spirit in addition to an essential, non-huge fist, second hand.   

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Detail of the nails carved into the hand. (via Wikimedia) 

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Sunset in the desert. (photograph by MrHicks46, via Flickr)

OZYMANDIAS ON THE PLAINS
Amarillo, Texas

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Ozymandias’ legs with the recurring sock graffiti. (via Wikitravel)

Located off the freeway south of Amarillo, Texas, are two giant-size legs that seem to be the aftermath of the old adage, “getting knocked off your feet.” The pair of stone appendages known as “Ozymandias on the Plains” are a tongue-in-cheek monument that echoes the ruins of ancient sculpture in the middle of modern Texas.

The bare stone legs, which seem to have been broken off a titan’s body at the knees, were built by a self-taught artist by the name of Lightnin’ McDuff, and conceptualized by eccentric local artist, philanthropist, and millionaire Stanley Marsh 3. Inspired by the Percy Shelley poem “Ozymandias” where he encounters the statue of an ancient ruler reduced to its legs, the stoic awe of the site is somewhat undercut by the assertion on the official plaque that the rest of the statue was destroyed by a rival football team. In addition, the legs have been repeatedly vandalized with painted-on socks, no matter how many times they get sandblasted clean.

The crazy legs of “Ozymandias on the Plains” embody the charming sense of humor while remaining an impressively massive work of art. These socked stems will finally give legs to our a giant!

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The plaque displaying Shelley’s poem. (photograph by Nicolas Henderson, via Flickr)

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The legs dwarfing a child. (via Atlas Obscura)
 

CALAMITA COSMICA
Rome, Italy

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The artist’s signature pointy nose. (via Wikimedia)

While most art celebrates the human body on the outside, just as important are our insides. The hidden architecture that keeps us all upright has received its just due with the colossal sculpture, “Calamita Cosmica,” a giant skeleton which is anatomically accurate and to-scale, save for its long, bony nasal protrusion.

The massive bleached skeleton is over 90 feet long and weighs eight tons, looking like nothing more than the bones of a colossus. This huge work of art by Gino De Dominicis has travelled all over Europe since its unveiling in 1990, appearing in France, Belgium, and Italy, where it currently resides in a repurposed Roman nunnery. The outlandish, pointy nose is a feature that can be seen in much of the artist’s work. 

A whimsical reminder of our inner structure, “Calamita Cosmica” will act as the ossified framework holding our gentle giant together.

article-imageThe skeleton as it appeared in Milan. (photograph by Stefano Bertolotti via Flickr) 

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The giant’s feet. (photograph by Fabrizio Ulisse via Flickr)
 

And in conclusion, our sculptural giant, to scale is assembled, complete with its glowering Lenin face, anatomically correct addition and a huge 50 foot tall smacking hand. Who could stand against it? None. 

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You’re welcome.

GIANT LENIN HEAD OF ULAN UDEUlan Ude, Russia

GIANT BOXING ARM OF JOE LOUISDetroit, Michigan

‘LE POUCE’ (THE GIANT THUMB SCULPTURE)Paris, France

HAESINDANG PENIS PARKSamcheok-Si, South Korea

HAND OF THE DESERTAntofagasta, Chile

OZYMANDIAS ON THE PLAINSAmarillo, Texas

CALAMITA COSMICARome, Italy