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Nicholas Jacobson

Nicholas Jacobson’s work interfaces with structural engineers to explore novel ways to work with form and structure.

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Tech Fashion

By Ali Margo

Photography by Shawn O’Connor

02.10.17

Local architect and designer Nicholas Jacobson takes haute couture to the next level with computational design.

Fashion was the furthest thing from Nicholas Jacobson’s mind when he moved to Aspen to pursue a career in architecture. But the young architect and cutting-edge designer, 33, recently made a splash when a haute couture gown he helped design was worn by Lisa Maria Falcone at last year’s Met Gala.

Jacobson isn’t a fashion designer, at least not exactly.

It was at Harvard, while earning a master’s degree in design, that he discovered computational design and began to explore innovative ways to apply digital technology to design. “We start with data and then let a form emerge based on the constraints of the data,” Jacobson explains.

If it sounds complicated, it is. He’s turning design on its head by using data to create a form, rather than starting with an idea for a form and then using data to help execute it.

He has since collaborated on designs for everything from skyscrapers and surgical instruments to backcountry huts to haute couture dresses.

“The fashion designer [Zaldy] saw the surgical instrument I designed and asked if I could use the same process and apply it to a dress,” he recalls. He used a 3-D scan of the model’s body and then created an algorithm that would respond with a design. “We looked at a number of interesting ways to interpret curvature,” he says. “Computational design allows you to work with a deeper set of data than what meets the eye. The possibilities are endless.”

The dress was a sensation, eventually landing a feature in Vogue. Anna Wintour talked about the dress on Good Morning America, and it was featured in Popular Science and The Huffington Post.

Jacobson’s next project is another dress. He hopes to enlist an A-list celeb at either the Oscars or the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April. “It will be a response to the new administration’s view on women,” Jacobson says. “It will be elegant and beautiful, yet provocative.”