by Sara Hendren (MDes ’13)
My ongoing project, Slope : Intercept, is a material and digital project, a deep genealogy of the inclined plane or ramp, one of Galileo’s “simple machines.” I have designed a set of ramps that perform as a modular set of objects for multiple uses and appropriations. Muted but present in their design are features for use by unlikely bedfellows seeking elevations in cities: skateboarders, whose radical leisure tends to be unwelcome in urban centers, and wheelchair users in search of ramps for single-step entrances, a common access problem in cities like Boston and New York. These portable ramps work for both populations, making a surprising and poetic Venn diagram among these city users. The project’s website, slopeintercept.org, places these ramps among inclined planes found everywhere—an ongoing archive of this simple but politically profound bit of geometry. I’m now seeking international partners to further the work in parts of the world where wheelchair access is rare and skateboarding cultures thrive.