dark mode light mode Search

Re-inventing Shoes


Five of the worlds leading architects and designers have created pairs of 3D printed shoes for footwear brand United Nude. Ben van Berkel, Zaha Hadid, Ross Lovegrove, Fernando Romero, and Michael Young are exploring and challenging 3D Printing technology by designing 3D printed ladies high heels for the Re-inventing Shoes exhibition on display this week during the 2015 Salone del Mobile. 

The Re-Inventing Shoes project is about exploring and pushing the boundaries of this rapidly developing technology by creating shoes with the largest amount of sculptural freedom. The production method used is the highest quality of 3D printing (Selective Laser Sintering) in a hard Nylon and all-new soft Rubber material. United Nude have figured out a way to combine harder and softer 3D printed parts for creating fully functioning shoes. The shoes each took about 24 hours to print using a sPro 60 selective laser sintering (SLS) machine made by 3D printing company 3D Systems, will be available as a up to 50 pair limited edition.

UNX2BEN VAN BERKEL / UNSTUDIO“With the design for UNX2 (image above), we wanted to dress the foot in such a way as to make its form partially visible, to highlight the mechanics of the foot and the visual effects that can be created by the shoe in motion. We were particularly interested in the kinds of images the shoe could create, both when static and when in motion. When the wearer is still, the curve of the foot can be glimpsed within the shoe and the dynamics of movement are suggested by the curving vertical ribbons that envelop it. However, once the wearer begins to move, shifting levels of transparency are created and the vertical lines create a staccato rhythm reminiscent of early stop-motion photography. The UNX2 shoe creates patterns of movement and produces a dynamic form of image-making through motion. It was also our intention to make visible the “process” of design in the final object: the digital strategy that was employed when testing the position of the foot within the shoe. So there is a kind of literal transparency, but also a phenomenological transparency that reveals both the process of design and the processes of movement.”

The vertical ribbons and the hoof-like shape of the shoe elongate the legs and create an almost animal-like extension.


AMMONITE | FERNANDO ROMERO – At the intersection of the geometry of nature, the human body, and the cosmos, the design of this shoe finds its beginning—in the geometries calculated through mystifying yet rational natural numeric sequences.

This shoe uses the most cutting-edge 3D printing technology both in design and execution, but the result is a shoe that could have been an object found in nature, a delicate fossil that has been buried on the bottom of the ocean for millennia.


FLAMES | ZAHA HADID – Informed by the flickering light of fire, the Flames shoe is the most recent collaboration between Zaha Hadid and United Nude. Flame-like bands originate from the point of the heel, rising upwards to gently embrace the foot, while the ergonomically optimized foot bed provides comfort and support.

The sculptural sensibility and experimentation of Hadid’s architectural language and United Nude’s expertise in manufacturing the most innovative designs has embodied the shoe with the essence of fire – delicate and ephemeral, yet compelling and dynamic.


ILABO | ROSS LOVEGROVE – “I have used this project to establish a moment where physical innovation in materials density and layered matrix node structuring, are coalesced to enhance the sensuality of the female form whilst remaining clearly technological….ultimately the shoe has been truncated to extending the perception of verticality and in doing so eliminate weight and mass which for me is a symbol of decadence.”

The filaments or hairs have been modeled using particle systems and attraction- repulsion logistics paralleling the bionic geometry of the foot. The complex tridimensional polygon mesh provides what is termed a Watertight Geometry whereby nothing is extraneous either in material volume or functional characteristic.

This modeling convergence benefits from the dynamics of gravity and particle attraction hence the subconscious references to the cosmos and the greater forces of attraction and repulsion.


YOUNG Shoe | MICHAEL YOUNG – “Working on this project has allowed the office a unique opportunity to explore and expand within a rare dimension. As a design office we are often working within strict parameters for client briefings so designing without boundaries on a shoe that is created to push the productions skills of United Nude and 3D Systems is rare. Combined with our own extensive experience in 3d technology we have created what we consider a refreshing approach to the way a shoe may be can be perceived. The process and material allowed us to create this unique lattice work that builds upwards around a heeled shoe to create a boot with the tactility of lace work that is in fact both durable and flexible at the same time.”


all images courtesy of UNITED NUDE