Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Shoes take inspiration from bridge design

(PhD Studentship available at AUB

MoDiP is delighted to have acquired a pair of innovative Mojito high heel shoes designed by the architect, Julian Hakes, in which the use of plastics rather than traditional shoe making materials has enabled the rethinking of shoe structure. We are most grateful for his generosity in presenting a pair as a gift for the permanent collection.
The Mojito high heels were brought to MoDiP’s attention by the Arts University Bournemouth’s National Teaching Fellow, who said ‘they will provide a very interesting design example for teaching’. As a result they are shortly to be featured as a highlight in an HEA funded workshop, Object Power: the use of museum artefacts in creative object-based learning & teaching in HE being held here at the Arts University Bournemouth at the end of March. To sign up please go to  
 Julian, with his partner Cari-Jane Hakes, won his first architectural commission in 1995 when still at Cambridge University, both aged 22. Hakes Associates was founded in 2000 and is amongst the most influential UK architectural practices with a substantial international reputation. While they design the full range of work you would expect of such a practice they have made something of a specialism of bridges.  It was the same process as they use in bridge design that informed the design of these shoes: ‘examining the load path and looking at the most simple and elegant yet poetic expression of the forces at play within the materials used’. The shoe in particular recalls the Hakes design for the Mobius Bridge Bristol, for which site preparation works ahead of construction are underway.
The inspiration for the design  of  this unusual shoe began with a foot imprint in sand which in Julian’s words ‘makes it very clear that the main force goes to the heel and the ball …and the foot naturally ‘spans’ the gap’. The architect worked with his own foot wrapping it in tracing paper, binding it with masking tape, drawing various geometries over it, then cutting the shape with a scalpel and peeling it from his foot.

Novel construction suggested the use of novel materials. Thus the core is made of composite polycarbonate and fibre reinforcement which provides the shoe with both the strength needed to support a person’s weight and the springiness necessary for easy movement. The composite frame is laminated with synthetic rubber on the floor side and leather padded with sculpted 3D memory foam on the side that touches the foot. The shoes were two years in development. Early prototypes of a carbon fibre core version were made by Julian Hakes in his London Studio using sculptor supplies and old wooden foot lasts.  Hakes also wanted furniture or automotive firms to stitch the leather because of the superb quality of their work. The shoe is currently manufactured in China in a plant owned by one of the architect’s key investors.  Although these are white, they are made in a wonderful array of contrasting colours, the leather dyed to a wide range of different colours and the outers likewise painted, coated in metal or printed. In spite of their unusual appearance they are said to be remarkably comfortable.

Mojito presents a completely new shoe structure resembling a sliver of lime peel, from which it takes its name. For those less familiar with their cocktails, a Mojito is one such which originated in Cuba made from white rum, sugar, sparkling water, mint and lime juice.

Susan Lambert (Head of the Museum of Design in Plastics)
With thanks to Julian Hakes London and Rachel Aldersley, Hakes Associates

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