Symposium: Innovation in Tradition
Institute for Architectural Theory, History and Heritage Preservation, University of Innsbruck
This study analyzes the evolution of resilient heel design as a technology of “modern shoes”. According to the patents published in the nineteenth century, shoe heels demonstrate the idea of “a small machine” that functions between our lower limbs and space through kinetic system, sometimes with the concept of interchangeability. Moreover, the emergence of this concept appears in the patent registration system in the same period, between 1840s and 1850s, when the usage of India rubber heels, which gave somehow the similar effect as a kinetic resilient heel and was a common practice at the time, began to be improved and registered in patents by several inventors. Neither kinetic resilient heels nor rubber heels change or transform the appearance of shoe radically as theses new way of supporting human body was intentionally designed to substitute traditional heels and to be in harmony with the whole part of the various traditional shoes as a “normal” changeable part. This study also attempts to trace how this technology evolves through the time, until the present day, considering shoes as an interface between feet and place, body and space. Here, another question comes out: how the body movement and its visualization becomes recordable, adjustable as well as auto-reproducible and inevitably a flux of information in the latest generation of sneakers, even though until today the new technology has been concealed neatly within a well-recognizable form of shoe. The operation of innovation, thus, has been intentionally kept under the familiar, traditional or conventional appearance, even though underneath it the concept of resilient supports remain but much more new operations are going on.