OESH & Architecture

Hello extended OESH family! My name is Sarah and I am the newest member of OESH. This past December I graduated with a Masters in Architecture from the University of Virginia and have been with OESH since. I’ve always been interested in making, and in the years between undergraduate (BS in Architecture, University of Illinois) and graduate school, I worked as a carpenter. While at UVA, I was able to explore 3-D printing as a new form of making and it was this interest that led me to OESH. Part of what I’ve been responsible with here is assisting a collaboration between OESH and the School of Architecture. In the post below you will understand more about the logical relationship between designing buildings and designing shoes!

OESH Collaboration Photo 2Over the past few months the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia has been collaborating with Dr. Kerrigan and the OESH team on an exciting design challenge. The challenge has been part of a class taught by Melissa Goldman, the architecture school’s fabrication facilities manager. Working with the guidance and expertise of Dr. Kerrigan, the task for the students was simple: design a shoe. This wasn’t to be just any shoe, but one which could be worn, provide the magic compliance that only OESH Shoes give, and actually be fabricated.

To back up a moment, one may ask, “why collaborate with students of architecture for such a project?” Not only are architecture students great designers, but the design process of architecture is actually quite similar to that of shoes. Both architecture and shoes require a keen understanding and awareness of how materials go together. In architecture school, students commonly think at the scale of the joint; for example, how a beam and column may meet. At OESH, we equally consider the joint, though for us it’s at a physically smaller scale. Here, the challenge for the students was to understand the joints which exist in the shoe such as the connection between the sole and body of the shoe and between the fabric and structure of the shoe.

In addition to Dr. Kerrigan’s knowledge of biomechanics and shoe design, OESH provided another important element for the students and their project. OESH has been actively researching and fabricating specialized 3-D printers as part of our production process. Through the unique design of our printers, the students were able to prototype their designs in a way which they could not do using standard 3-D printers such as those that are available at the architecture school. Our printers allowed the students to experiment with flexible materials and encouraged material research as part of their design process.

The design challenge has taken place over the length of the semester and has included several phases. It began at the OESH factory with the entire class gathered for a lecture by Dr. Kerrigan. Here, they were introduced to key points about biomechanics and issues to keep in mind while designing. The challenge started with thinking about the sole of the shoe and how its form relates to its function. The students were then divided into 4 teams. Each team, using their new knowledge from Dr. Kerrigan, paired with their knowledge and curiosities of 3-D printing, designed and printed a wearable shoe. This early phase also allowed the students to conduct testing with materials and material combinations for printing. Basically, our factory was their playground for a few class periods! [Highlights of this phase can be seen in this previously posted video]. The second half of the course brought back a smaller and focused group of students. This group, though they are currently wrapping up their final designs, were able to go deeper into their schemes and the design of critical joints and connections within a shoe.

As researchers and fabricators, it has been wonderful to impart our knowledge upon an eager group of students. In return, their curiosity and questions have prompted us to pause and think as we continue with our own designs and fabrication processes.

Many thanks to Melissa Goldman and her class, “The World is Flat, the 3-D Printer Edition.”

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