The Growing Sneakers Project at Milan Design Week

Eco-Social Design graduate Nicholas Rapagnani will be exhibiting and discussing his interdisciplinary design/science thesis project “The Growing Sneakers” at this year’s Milan Design Week

BASE (Temporary Home)
Date and Time: 6-12 June from 10:00–20:00
Location: BASE – Via Bergognone 34, Milan

Designers in Residence

From 6 to 12 June, the guesthouse of BASE (CasaBASE) becomes a temporary residence for five young designers from all over Europe, invited to reflect on the issue of the circular economy. Each resident will be able to work in an open atelier where their work and experimentation is shared with the public. Nicholas Rapagnani has been invited as designer in residence and we are more than happy to see his work becoming part of the bigger community dialogue on the role and importance of design(ers) in moving towards a more circular economy.

Design meets Science

Nicholas developed The Growing Sneakers as an interdisciplinary thesis project within the master Eco-Social Design at unibz. A tangible prototype of a sustainable shoe, between traditional and digital craft, was designed in collaboration with Salewa (Oberalp Group).

Simultaneously, experiments with mycelium-based materials were carried out inside FaST Lab, the laboratories of Science and Technology faculty at unibz. Petri dish micro-moulds were used to make mycelium grow following the various sneaker components’ shapes.

Impression of laboratory activity: Mycelium inoculation inside liquid media

Mycelium-based Materials

The importance of mushrooms for the Earth has been already stated as vital for entire eco-systems and biodiversity. Now, they are also becoming a contact point between humankind and nature through collaborations: materials can be grown from fungal mycelium in pre-determined shapes instead of being industrially manufactured. Technological advancements are eventually leaving pace for biological ones.

3D-printed petri dish moulds: Mycelium based materials growing micro-components of the sneake

Eco-Social Design

Sneakers themselves are a great example of the importance of footwear as cultural objects, personified by people with subjective meanings. They also bear a huge eco-social agency: their linear life cycle, in terms of quantity and quality, is burdening on the ecological and sociological spheres of the world. Sneakers need a (circular) revolution.

Nicholas Rapagnani

“The Growing Sneakers project began where my sneaker-head meets my passion for natural sciences, aiming to merge footwear design with microbiological experiments.”

Read more

Showcase: Faculty of Design and Arts
Behance (personal portfolio)
Press Kit (hi-res images)

Master Thesis: The Growing Sneakers – An experience-based investigation of future sneakers manufacturing techniques and scenarios through materials bio-fabrication
Supervisors: Aart van Bezooijen (Faculty of Design and Art) and Luigimaria Borruso (Faculty of Science and Technology)

Project partners: Salewa (Oberalp Group) and FaST Lab (unibz)
Support: Oussama Bouaicha (lab activities) and Seçil Ugur Yavuz (design research)

Photo credits: Nicholas Rapagnani