Luckey Climbers: Engaging Kids in Self-Exploration

Luckey Climbers

If there are two elements every designer wishes to prove true, they are the quality of the inhabitancy and the engagement the user has with the design, its program, and its context. Luckey climbers create design, which takes the idea of inhabitancy and engagement to sublime levels through climbing. We live in a risk-adverse society where the idea of trust is dumbed down. This minimizes risk and therefore litigation. In some ways, this is our own fault — we worry so much about the intent to sue that we deprive ourselves of the instinctual movements of climbing.

Journey/ Control/ Trust

The appeal of rock climbing is not only the journey through form, but the sublime and holistic movement required to inhabit and engage that form. Luckey climbers use the motif of children’s play to create structures designed to enable this journey while maintaining two principles of designing for potential fall: trust and control. The form of the structure allows for a variety of spatial experiences based on the trust that if a climber is not sure about his/her ability to make a move, he/she will back down. Human beings have a high sense of instinctual self-preservation, which allows for this level of trust. The form and materials used are then configured so that any fall will result in the user landing on an appropriate surface at an appropriate distance from the point of departure. It is a true testament to a designer when she can take the restrictions of the control and turn it into a journey where natural and free-flowing movements of climbing occur. 


Luckey systems feature an innovative use of rigging techniques and materials. A central part of the genius in the design is the use of netting as part of the structural component as well as for safety. The netting is threaded through the various shaped platforms, which makes the form and creates a more streamlined design, allowing for the entire structure to be in close reach to what is essentially a soft handrail throughout the journey of the structure. With this control in place, it is up to the imagination of the designer as to how the journey through the form could occur.


Features of Luckey climber spaces are not only the journey itself, but the places within that journey where a user can perch. This is another trait enjoyed by rock climbers, and part of the fun of being at height. Perches are social spaces as much as play spaces, where climbers can stop and interact or simply observe. It is not every day that most people get to enjoy spatiality on the Z plane without the solid direction of the X and Y. Even as you look out of the 90th-story window of the builiding you are in, (hopefully) solid floors are surrounded by solid walls. In Luckey climbing, the walls are softened, creating a different sensation of spatiality, stemming from your own body. Senses are generally heightened, as is kinaesthetic awareness.


What is great about these spaces is that they allow kids to engage in journeys, which allows self-exploration in a way not usually encountered in the designed world. Every progression up the structure is an affirmation of self. It trains an awareness of the self that is lost in our liability-ridden, safety-conscious society. One of the biggest causes of discontentment in our society is disconnection from self. Long Island Children's Museum Long Island Children’s Museum Spaces like this allow young people to develop some sort of awareness of self-connectivity through a journey of controlled climbing in a beautiful, dream-like aesthetic. Luckey climbing structures are a benchmark for what is possible in terms of play. It challenges and blurs the boundaries of self and safety regulations to create connective spaces, which are enthusiastically inhabited and engaged. I can’t wait to see the version tailored to adults.

Article written by Stuart Beekmeyer

Original Article at

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