Tom Luckey

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Tom Luckey
Luckey Climber at Westfield Fox Valley
Born Thomas Walker Luckey
(1940-01-06)January 6, 1940
Quantico, VA
Died August 19, 2012(2012-08-19) (aged 72)
New Haven, CT
Nationality American
Alma mater Yale School of Architecture[1]
Occupation Architect, sculptor
Known for Luckey Climbers
Spouse(s) Ettie[2]
Children Spencer, Kit, Walker, Owen
Parent(s) General Robert Luckey[2]

Thomas W. ("Tom") Luckey (January 6, 1940 – August 19, 2012) was an American architect and sculptor, best known for inventing abstract playgrounds called Luckey Climbers.[3] Luckey also created furniture, merry-go-rounds, and interiors.

Life and career[edit]

After graduating from the Yale School of Architecture in the late 1960s,[1] Luckey began remodeling friends' houses[3] and doing experimental projects, including one described as transforming:

... part of a Vermont house into a "spooky space landscape," as one critic described it. Randomly placed steps, ramps, and terraces ascended to the ceiling, and surfaces were sheathed in woolly orange carpet. Elsewhere in the house, a cylindrical rotating room replicated the spatial transmutations of LSD with a bed that became the back of a sofa, a table that morphed into a seating platform that became a desk, and so on.

— Alastair Gordon, Spaced Out: Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Sixties[4]

In addition to interiors and furniture, he also designed merry-go-rounds; one, inspired by square dances, moves riders from one seat to another as they go around.[2]

A mutual friend introduced Luckey to Agnes Gund, who insisted he contact the Boston Children's Museum.[2] After he persuaded officials to let him build his first Luckey Climber, the structure turned out to be one of the museum's most popular exhibits, and has now been replaced with a new version.[3]

Luckey died on August 19, 2012 at Yale–New Haven Hospital due to complications from pneumonia. He was 72.[5][6]

Luckey Climbers[edit]

Luckey Climbers are multi-story climbing structures crossed with mazes and jungle gyms. In appearance, they have been compared to "a Calder mobile fashioned from Monet's lily pads".[3] They have been installed in locations across North America that include:

Venue Location
Boston Children's Museum[3] Boston, Massachusetts
Children's Museum of Pittsburgh[7] Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Young at Art Museum[8] Davie, Florida
Papalote museo del niño[9]
(Papalote Children's Museum)
Mexico City, Mexico
Children's Discovery Museum[10] Normal, Illinois
Children's Museum of Winston-Salem Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Westfield Fox Valley[11] Aurora, Illinois
Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago, Illinois
WonderLab Bloomington, Indiana
Long Island Children's Museum Garden City, New York
Children's Museum at Holyoke Holyoke, Massachusetts
Children's Museum of Memphis Memphis, Tennessee
The Commons[12] Columbus, Indiana
Children's Museum of Alamance County Graham, North Carolina
Westfield Century City Los Angeles, California
Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum Reno, Nevada
Children's Museum of South Dakota Brookings, South Dakota
Providence Children's Museum Providence, Rhode Island
Delaware Children's Museum[13] Wilmington, Delaware
Children's Museum of the Upstate Greenville, South Carolina
Children's Museum of Houston Houston, Texas
The Magic House Kirkwood, Missouri
Kidspace Children's Museum[3] Pasadena, California
Discovery Place[7] Charlotte, North Carolina
Christ Community Church[14] St. Charles, Illinois

No major injuries have occurred on Luckey Climbers, and they have a clean safety record—which is one of the reasons why they are so desired by children's museums.[3]

Luckey (documentary)[edit]

In 2005, Luckey fell out of a second-story bathroom window and landed on his head. As a result of a fractured cervical vertebra, Luckey was paralyzed from the neck down.[1][2] He continued to design Luckey Climbers, at first with the assistance of his son, Spencer;[2] the one at the Delaware Children's Museum was his first to be fully accessible.[13]

Filmmaker Laura Longsworth made a 2008 documentary, Luckey,[15] about the personal and professional repercussions of the accident. The film appeared at a number of festivals, including SxSW[16] and the Independent Film Festival of Boston,[17] and garnered the Special Jury Award for Artistic Portrait at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival[18] and Best Documentary Feature at the Indie Memphis Film Festival.[19] The film has also been shown on the Sundance Channel.[20]


  1. ^ a b c Varley, Robert (31 May 2006). "Tom Luckey: Not your traditional architect; Climbing new heights". New Haven Register. via HighBeam Research. Retrieved 6 June 2012.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Leavenworth, Jesse (26 September 2007). "Art Come Alive: Imaginative Works Of Tom Luckey Aren't Complete Until Inhabited By Humans". Hartford Courant. via HighBeam Research. Retrieved 6 June 2012.  (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Jermanok, Stephen (18 March 2007). "Ready. Set. Climb". The Boston Globe. via HighBeam Research. Retrieved 6 June 2012.  (subscription required)
  4. ^ Gordon, Alastair (1 April 2008). "Spaced-Out Spaces". Interior Design. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Cory, Christopher T. (September 7, 2012). "Thomas W. Luckey, architect/sculptor of inventive recreation environments for children; service at Yale Sept.8". The Shoreline Times. Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Thomas W. Luckey". The Martha's Vineyard Times. September 5, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Hoover, Bob (17 November 1989). "The climber links earth, sky for kids". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Google News Archive. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Weinstein, Dina (18 August 2011). "Young at Art expands". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  9. ^ DePalma, Anthony (18 November 2003). "In Mexico City, A State-of-the-Art Children's Museum". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 June 2012.  – with sound and light system by Remo Saraceni.
  10. ^ Ford, Mary Ann (25 November 2004). "The New Discovery Kids test out museum set to open Saturday". The Pantagraph. via HighBeam Research. Retrieved 6 June 2012.  (subscription required)
  11. ^ "A New Twist". Naperville Sun. via HighBeam Research. 8 April 1999. Retrieved 6 June 2012.  (subscription required)
  12. ^ Berman, Eric (25 December 2010). "Rebuilding of Columbus' Commons Nears Finish". WIBC (FM). Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Price, Betsy (31 January 2010). "Delaware Children's Museum expected to open on schedule". USA Today. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  14. ^ Murschel, Michael J. (28 June 2006). "Christ Community opens interactive kids playground". The Beacon News. via HighBeam Research. Retrieved 9 June 2012.  (subscription required)
  15. ^ Luckey on Internet Movie Database
  16. ^ jim (12 March 2009). "Emerging Visions: Introducing Luckey". Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  17. ^ Baltrusis, Sam (31 March 2009). "Luckey filmmaker Laura Longsworth". Loaded Gun Boston. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "Luckey by Laura Longsworth". Fanlight Productions. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  19. ^ Herrington, Chris (11 October 2009). "Indie Memphis Film Fest: Award Winners/Encore Screenings". Memphis Flyer. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Luckey". Sundance Channel listings. 

External links[edit]