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The footprint is replacing the blueprint as architects employ their talent to create skyscraper heels, and shoe designers are inspired by starchitect structures.

Forget Louboutin, Choo and Blahnik and start thinking Zaha, Gehry and Calatrava. For the new face of high heels, elegant flats and gentlemen’s brogues are not fashion designers but architects who are employing the same mechanics used in the building industry to fine tune the balance, the shape and, crucially, the comfort of footwear.



It was the prolific architect Zaha Hadid who first took the step from designing buildings to designing footwear. In collaboration with Brazilian shoe brand, Melissa, Hadid created an all-rubber shoe with a small wedge heel that is as sculptural as any other structure her practice has built. “Architecture and shoe design are different disciplines,” says Woody Yao, an associate director of Zaha Hadid Architects. “But they share the challenges of creating a pleasing shape, a seamless continuous surface, and the dynamic between interior and exterior.”

Hadid has since followed up on those shoes with another pair for Lacoste. On this occasion, her practice employed the use of Direct Metal Laser Sinterering, a technique usually reserved for cutting metal in industry, to create an extraordinary boot that wraps around the wearer’s leg. “The shoes were an opportunity to explore ideas we might put into buildings on a different scale,” comments Yao.

Frank Gehry is another big name architect to have designed shoes both with his artist son, Alejandro, and with prestigious Parisian shoemaker JM Weston. Says Gehry of his Chelsea boot-like effort: “Shoes always have to be functional and then have their own character, but architects and shoe designers alike are working with shape and structure.”

The most recent architect to reshape the shoe is Julian Hakes of Hakes Associates in London. “One late summer night in the studio I was wondering why there was a need for a foot plate in shoes such as high heels,” says Hakes of his motivation. “So I set to exploring this question in a similar way to how I would design a bridge, examining the forces and looking at the most simple, elegant yet poetic expression of the forces at play within the materials used.” Hakes’ resulting prototype was called the Mojito because, aside from its resemblance to a twist of lime skin, there is nothing else to the laminate structure.

It is not just architects who are creating shoes inspired by buildings. One of the inspirations of Bosnian designer Tea Petrovic was Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava when she designed a collection of shoes for her graduating project from the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo. “These high heels are sculptural figures with an accent on detail which dominate and determine the form of a shoe,” Petrovic says of her striking constructions. Though don’t expect them to be more comfortable than your regular footwear. Petrovic warns: “These shoes are primarily an art object and their function is secondary”.

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