The Re-Inventing Shoes project is the result of a thrilling collaboration between 5 of the world’s leading architects/designers, United Nude and 3D Systems.
By using the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which is the most accurate 3D Printing technic, the experiment had an all new and different approach on the art of shoe making, creating incredibly detailed sculptures that you can walk in.
We met the designers to know more about the project but also about their story and vision...
Ben Van Berkel
Ben van Berkel, when did you start creating?
I was always interested in art and design and initially, when deciding what to study, focused this interest specifically on graphic design. So that was probably when it really started for me.
What pushed you to become an architect?
As I mentioned, I was always interested in Art and Design, so I went to the Rietveld art academy in Amsterdam where I studied graphic design at first. There I had a teacher who taught me about architecture, he inspired me so much. I was also working for a Japanese designer and through the work I did with him, I was introduced to Japanese architecture. I was really excited by the capsule hotel, the Katsura Palace and the architecture in Japan in general.
In the 1980’s, I was also really inspired by the people around me and when I was 25, I started to study architecture. I believe that architecture is similar to product design and graphic design. I was always interested in producing something that could be directly connected to the public, which the magazine covers I was designing pro- vided, but at the same time magazines are only there for a week and I never liked the idea that they were so impermanent.
What is your process of creation?
In terms of the creative process, architecture is so complex and you have to deal with very many different things. My way of tackling this is to work with all the restrictions first; to separate all the elements and then try to override the rules; to do the opposite; something less conventional and then I bring it back to the accepted standards and make it work within the rules.
What did you like about creating a pair of shoes?
This was a really exciting project to work on be- cause it involved really merging design and technology, and really trying to push the boundaries of shoe design. It is also of course related more
directly to the body compared to architecture, and the way the body moves. So that was something we really wanted to play with in the design: both the shoe as a static object and the effects that could be created when the shoe is in motion.
In your opinion, what is the responsibility of an architect nowadays?
That they do in fact take responsibility – for what architecture can generate in cities, in specific environments and for the end users: for the social effects of what we build. As architects we cannot be social scientists, but we can take more responsibility for what architecture does and that the translations of these responsibilities into the object of architecture can be perceived, can be felt.
But it is important that this is done in a fully integrated and intelligent manner, not as an add- on or an afterthought, but as part of the whole system of architecture. I also believe that it is the responsibility of architects to ensure that it remains part of the cultural environment, that it reflects the cultural fascinations and influences of the designer and creates cultural effects.
What would you like to do more in your work, what less?
In a way this all relates to the amount of time available. I would like to be able to do more re- search, but also more teaching and to have more discussions with people that I am close to within the discipline.
Running a company with offices in three locations also involves quite a lot of management, so I would prefer to do less of that and to have more time to work on the designs. I already work quite extensively on the designs, but a little less time spent on management tasks and even more on design would be ideal.
Ross Lovegrove, when did you know you wanted to be a designer?
I first explored design through the medium of food experimenting with different and unexpected com- positions between the ages of 12-17.
I realized the incredible nature of materials in the true organic sense and that all industrial processes are related to the transformation of substance through heat.
« I am interested and moved by very deep primordial or profound concepts like space, evolution or hyper technology »
When did your work become digital and how did you realize it was going to be important for you?
I was one of the earliest adopters of digital technology in design in 1990.
My first use was in the creation of a fountain pen for Louis Vuitton.
From there I have stayed completely aligned with advances in Computational Design inspired by what I see in advanced schools of architecture that push boundaries of structure, form and philosophy. I have tried to harness the tangible from this in terms of relevant translation into Industrial artifacts using algorithmic mapping and optimization of material and form.
The aesthetic release has been in the convergence of organically sincere, evolutionary base form rendered more economically vital by computational intelligence. A recent example of this is my DIATOM Chair for MOROSO.
Louis Sullivan once said “Form follows function”, do you agree? How could you describe your aesthetics?
Yes to some degree its a beautiful place to begin but now with great strides made in bioengineering we see architecture, cars, bridges, structures and art which defy previous rules of logic. We have passed the tipping point of abstraction into the ream of the freeform OTHERWORLDLY that means that there is a new sculptural force at work in the aesthetics of 21st Century Design.
What was the greatest difficulty with the design of ILABO?
There were no difficulties in creating the ILABO shoe only the need for time and the constancy of layering, re-evaluating and refinement so that there is a trinity between the physiognomy of the foot, comfort, natural bionic forces of movement and retention of the primary objective to project a feeling of vertical gravity flowing from the ankle to the floor.
You designed almost everything we can imagine, what did you like most?
My water bottle for TY NANT which fuses Design, Nature and Art, DNA if you like and is considered the first digitally generated commercial consumer product.
If not design and architecture, what would you like to do?
I am interested and moved by very deep primordial or profound concepts like space, evolution or hyper technology, so my future path could still see me creating design or art that relates to this.
Fernando Romero, what are your earliest memories of architecture? What pushed you to be- come an architect?
As a little boy, I used to visit my grandparents and have lunch with them every Friday. I was fascinated by the design, the lines and spaces of the modernistic house where they lived. It somehow captivated me and triggered my imagination.
For architecture, the process of creation and the construction can take a few years; it’s laborious and very technical. Do you sometimes envy product/fashion designers, where the process can be more spontaneous and take less time for the production? Did you enjoy this quick process while creating a shoe?
Well, as both are completely different realms, it is hard to compare. It is about your mindset: when I design a building, my mind is prepared for a long journey. Working on a shoe is a shorter journey. So you can’t really compare them. The important thing here It is always great fun to collaborate with amazing people and great brands.
«When I design a building, my mind is prepared for a long journey »
Is there any similarities in the design process for a shoe and a building?
I don’t think so. As I said before, it is like comparing a long summer abroad with a short trip to propose to your fiancé́. Both are nice experiences, but you can’t really compare them. The challenges are different, the programs are different, the ergonomics and the timing are different, the desires that should be satisfied by the form are different.
In my opinion, the Museum Soumaya is definitely one of the most stunning buildings ever
made. It’s a beautiful futuristic shape, very calm and fluid yet strong and impressive. What was the inspiration behind this concept?
Well, thank you so much. This is an example of a very long project. After many progressions regarding the design, the location changed, so we had to start over again. It is indeed a calm and fluid object, as if an object produced by an industrial designer has been given a different scale.
What we did there, and what we always try to do, is trying to translate the diversity of its collection into an architectural body. We also want to connect our designs with the specific historical moment we are living in.
Some of your buildings could definitely be in a Science Fiction movie...I would like to know what are your favorite films? Do you have any beloved Film Directors?
Are you thinking about Kubrick and Ridley Scott? Maybe... the funny thing is that what you call science fiction, I call it “organic”.
Talking about contemporary cinema, I have great admiration for Mexicans like Cuarón and Iñarritú. I also like Coppola, but he is not futuristic.
In your career you worked on various scales, what is on your wish list to design in the future?
Yes, I am proud of having developed designs from a chair to the biggest airport in the world nowadays, that is something that only few architects have done. In the future I would love to design a cathedral, even if I think that airports are the cathedrals of our time.
Michael Young, what do you like about creating?
The freedom, the change, I don’t really know how to compare what I do to anything else.
Could you explain the process of creation for the Young-Shoe?
It was not about form, it was my studio’s journey in 3D software. It was about how we could use a material without boundaries, there was no formal conclusion.
I have only worked in materials with properties such as metal and wood, which a lot of people understand historically so this was a new experience all together. I think it could be the start of a new journey.
« It was about how we could use a material with- out boundaries »
Which designer from the past inspires you?
I am an out and out Nigel Cabourn fan, lets say an addict, I collect his cloths and hang them in my house. It educates me and informs me about so many things be it history or material.
His latest collection has got me buying tents, medicine balls, medals and more. It has been 15 years now... he his still working but the historical refer- ences are from the past and I adore it.
What is your opinion on 3D Printing?
I have not had the chance to understand it holistically. It is still at ink jet printer stage so I am optimistic but not jumping on it yet but I will when the stars align.
Is there something that you didn’t design yet and that you would like to design in the future?
I tend to live life project by project and it’s been rather organic. I’ve been asked this question many times over the past 20 years and it’s never come true so this time I am going to say a Climbing Axe made in Switzerland of Bell Helicopter, again.