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This Rock Climbing Gym Stimulates Innovation and Creativity

What does scaling a 50-foot high climbing wall have to do with TEDx, a collaborative workspace, and veteran-focused entrepreneurship? Under our roof, everything.

What does scaling a 50-foot high climbing wall have to do with TEDx, a collaborative workspace, and veteran-focused entrepreneurship? Under our roof, everything.


Whether in Panama doing cultural mediation work, disaster response in Haiti, or working with start-ups in the U.S., I found continuity in the power of physical activity and play to unite and inspire communities. Many people are at their best creatively when they are active, engaged, and stimulated. The best work and eureka moments don’t typically come as a result of being stagnant, but instead, are had during incredible conversations, on adventures or while collaborating and helping others.

So what is manifested when social impact entrepreneurship and cultural design are integral focuses of an organization that’s core competency is the very physical and playful sport of climbing? Brooklyn Boulders Somerville (BKB Somerville).

BKB Somerville is a new experimental 40,000 square foot hybrid rock climbing and fitness facility built on the premise that physicality stimulates innovation and creativity.

Climbing marries the physical and the cerebral, as it is refreshingly challenging and creative. At the same time, problem-solving and strategy are very much a part of the sport. The experiment I undertook with the BKB Somerville team was to explore how we could design a community space and multifaceted experience that was rooted by climbing and intended to serve as a collaborative hub. Our overarching goal remains to explore how we can blur the lines between work, life, and play. Everything from the physical design of the facility to events and partnerships are intended to bring this concept to life.

It is the partnerships and collaborations we have the opportunity to establish and continue to build that exemplify the hybrid nature of the project. These collaborations range from veteran-focussed initiatives to lean start-up competitions, and collaborations with street artists.

BKB Somerville is working with Tactivate, an initiative designed to integrate former special operations veterans into the start-up community. This collaboration lead to the hiring of a Reserve Officer in the Navy who joined the team to run the facility as the General Manager, enabling the team to explore how military leadership experience and communication skills may positively impact the organization. BKB has also worked with Team Rubicon, a veteran disaster response organization, to provide a base of operations during Hurricane Sandy. The Brooklyn facility housed hundreds of veterans 24/7 for over a month, which empowered one of the largest and most effective response initiatives to the super-storm.

BKB Somerville is serving as a host and partner to HACKFit’s first 48-hour start-up event that mixes the worlds of entrepreneurship, fitness, and health on September 20-22, 2013. Entrepreneurs will work around the clock to develop fitness applications and fully viable businesses while climbing, doing yoga, and staying healthy in the process.

We built an active collaborative workspace into the facility where you can find stand-up desks with pull-up bars built in. Our community members are often seen balancing on medicine balls, hanging from the pull-up bars, and cheering on their friends climbing in front of them as they go through their e-mails. People just seem to be more productive and creative when they have the flexibility to move around and be active. The Cambridge Innovation Center, partners of BKB Somerville, continues to provide council as we develop the space, which has already served as a meeting spot for the StartUp Institute, Vita Coco, and as a venue for a collaborative sneaker launch and press event.

From slackline yoga classes to playing in the collaborative workspace to climbing on over 25,000 square feet of world class climbing terrain, there are a variety of activities for stimulation and inspiration. We are motivated to create a space that our community can walk into and be inspired by the power of physicality and creativity.

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Julian Meehan

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