Alexis Sablone Earns Three X Games Gold Medals and An Architecture Degree from MIT

Alexis Sablone, a recent graduate from MIT’s M.S. Arch.S. Program and architecture undergrad from Columbia University shares a letter to her 80 year-old self about her path, on and off the skateboard.

Written in January 2017, Alex addresses her future self and tells the tale of her love of skating, since she was 10, when she finally got a skateboard for her birthday. After years of hard work learning to ollie, flip and grind, she went to Camp Woodward, a gymnastic skating camp in Pennsylvania where she (after many dropouts of other girls) became the final female skater at the camp. At age 12, she was sponsored by Element! but swiftly found out that competitions were not her favorite thing.

She writes to herself…

AS:It wasn’t all rosy, though. I’ll bet you still cringe at the memory of Element flying you out to California for a competition when you were 13. You were so nervous that your legs were practically shaking on the board. That’s probably why you botched your first trick and sprained your ankle. God, that was traumatic. Right then and there, you swore you’d never do another competition.


AS:You weren’t ready for that, not yet. You wanted to skate on your own terms, back in your garage. You didn’t want the pressure of getting money and free gear and having the sponsors expecting something in return.

So you left them. Just like that. You moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, and left all your sponsors behind.

You studied architecture at Columbia. You worked your ass off, barely slept, and loved every single second of it. Of course you still skated, but you were just doing it for you, without the weight of expectations. A fresh start.

And in 2008, when she graduated, she was presented with a crossroads—to skate professionally or work at a random desk job—which led her to win three X Games Gold Medals. With the winnings, she put herself through graduate school at MIT where she graduated with a Master of Architecture.

In her sign off, she urges her future self to “never stop creating.” Which we now extend to you!

#architecturestories #studyarchitecture

Thank you, Alexis Sablone for sharing your story and allowing us in to hear it. What an inspiration!

Excerpts pulled from the article published in The Players’ Tribune Letter to my Future Self.


MIT Mediated Matter Group Mixes Biology and Computer Engineering

(via FastCoDesign)

“The world of design has been subjugated by the rigors of manufacturing and mass production,” says Neri Oxman, an architect, designer, and director of the Mediated Matter research group within the MIT Media Lab. “Assembly lines have dictated a world of parts and have been framing the imagination of designers and architects who have been trained—like all of us—to think about their designs as assemblies of discrete parts with distinct functions.”

That’s a problem, Oxman argued at the 2016 AIA conference last week. Because while we may have a deep understanding of how the world works, our current fabrication technology isn’t sophisticated enough to put that knowledge to good use. “The engineering tools we use today—like finite element analysis or computational fluid dynamics—are tools that operate at a much higher resolution than the tools we use to actually build the materials and products in the environment,” she says.

The major key to unlocking better design, according to Oxman, is biomorphism, or looking to how the natural world operates and infusing that knowledge into how we design and build. This is what synthetic biology is about: mixing biology and computer engineering. “We look to the biological world to extract phenomenon,” she says.

Oxman argues that some of the best natural design is a gradient of a single material, for example bones and how their density changes throughout the body or skin and its multiple functions as a barrier and a way to disperse heat to keep our bodies cool. Rather than having compositions of many parts, Oxman wants to design single material systems with different attributes, like skin. To put her work in context, she says, today “synthetic biology is the computer science of the ’80s.”

Some of her research with how a single material could be manipulated through design include hacking silkworms to build architectural scale structures or 3-D printing a dress using a single material and using no sewing or stitching to create the silhouette, and a wearable that produces food. In the context of architecture, her eventual goal is to be able to create a single material that could be used to build a column that morphs into a beam that morphs into a window—no assembly required.

“The future of design is a future where anything material in the environment—whether it’s wearables, cars, buildings—can be designed with this variation of properties and relationship with the environment that can take part in the natural ecology,” Oxman says. “Hopefully it points towards a shift that goes beyond the age of assembly into the age of a new kind of organism.”

(via FastCoDesign)

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