The Lancaster Science Factory has opened a climbable exhibit called the Sky Bridge.
With a design inspired by suspension bridges, the Sky Bridge is part sculpture, part playground, part engineering demonstration. The installation hangs from the ceiling and almost appears to hover, greeting visitors as soon as they walk through the doors.
Executive Director Emily Landis believes it will become an iconic landmark for visitors, akin to the Giant Heart at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia or the Cloud Gate, aka “the Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
“We wanted a large, high impact showpiece that would capture the hearts and minds of our visitors, that would be utterly unforgettable,” she explained.
She calls it a “wrinkle in the brain,” a hook designed to encourage not only learning — nearby interactive stations teach bridge mechanics — but dreaming. “We wanted to teach people about structural engineering and inspire them to ask questions like ‘What could I build?’”
The Sky Bridge is constructed of massive steel beams and wire mesh. The structure’s 35 panels allow intrepid young climbers a bird’s eye view of the exhibit hall from 25 feet up. The panels’ surfaces feature aerial photographs from Lancaster County and around the world, with rainbow-reflecting holographic film on the underside.
During a field trip Friday morning, children eagerly clambered all over the Sky Bridge as their parents snapped pictures with their smart phones.
The majority of funding for the approximately $500,000 installation was provided by the High Foundation. For the past six years, High Steel team members have led a summer camp at Lancaster Science Factory called BridgeMania.
Robin Stauffer, executive director at High Foundation, said the collaboration “felt like it was meant to be.”
Luckey Climbers, a Connecticut firm, designed and fabricated the custom installation. The wire mesh, which provides both visual intrigue and essential safety, was woven on site. Once in place, the company claims, these unique creations “become fountains of children.”
Sky Bridge is the capstone to a larger $4.4 million “Elevate Curiosity” capital campaign at the science museum. Other components include the Mueller Outdoor Courtyard and the Russo Family Maker Space.
Like the Franklin Institute’s Giant Heart and Chicago’s Bean, the team at High Foundation and LSF hope Sky Bridge will serve as a magnet for tourism.