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syn·tro·py (sin’trō-pē),

The antithesis of entropy, is the tendency towards energy concentration, order, organisation and life.


The foundation of the project Syntropia are two individual projects Ra(h)menschuh by Sophia Guggenberger and Syntropic Materials by Eugenia Morpurgo.

Ra(h)menschuh is an investigation into alternative construction methods for shoe production, based on traditional craft, digital fabrication and industrial strategies.

A traditional shoe can have up to 40 different comp-onents, made with a variety of different materials, assembled irreversibly through glue and stitching, limiting possibilities for repair and disposal. Through the development of a simplified construction, comp- onents are essentially reduced to four (upper, frame, lining, outsole). The parts are worked without gluing, which means they can be separated, disposed off and repaired, when necessary. Furthermore, the shoes are conceptualized so all the parts can be produced locally, as well as globally. The complexity of prod- uction is simplified, not only through the modified construction but also through the use of low threshold tools and the development of a modular last system which further simplifies and minimizes the resources needed.

Although a simplified localised process already presents a more sustainable alternative to the current modes of production, the environmental impact of most materials used still leaves big potential for investigation and improvement.

In reaction to the current environmental crisis, an ever-growing quest for sustainable alternatives to oil-based materials has emerged. In the field of footwear design as much as in other creative disciplines this translated with increasing natural and bio-fabricated options developed at an industrial level as well as at an experimental design-studio level. Among other solutions, many companies, material engineers and designers started looking into the use of industrial agricultural leftovers motivated by the necessity of not stealing land from food production. Based strongly on local bioregional economies, these researches are creating an expanding landscape of natural materials. Despite giving birth to a richer biodiversity of resources, however, these researches are only technical solutions to the use of waste materials and are not questioning the agricultural system that generated them in the first place. They are not providing real alternatives to the environmental impact of monocultural industrial farming.

With her project Syntropic Materials, Eugenia is looking at alternative agroecological models such as regenerative agricultural practices and attempts to combine these with the latest development in natural material research. In order to design regenerative processes for plant/animal based material production. Asking if this great innovation in the field of materials can open new possibilities for the development of polycultures, and vice versa, if the choices taken in designing polycultures could define new directions in new material developments.

The project Syntropia proposes to rethink and re-conceptualise the way we produce ressources and the products made with them. Currently there are two approaches to sustainable footwear design, one is recycling and the other is the use of bio based materials. Both still rely on big scale industrial production, which in bio materials means industrial monoculture and for recycling the need for plastic waste. While we recognise the current value of these systems we believe that in order to create wholesome viable options for production in the future, we need to rethink the connection between resource and product and relate them to each other before either one gets made; field – material – product.

Our starting point is to develop a shoe based on biomaterials which can grow on the same polycultural field. Thereby taking control of the impact that the materials we are using have on the environment during all steps of their lifecycle.This means the shoe is made solely from renewable resources and these resources are grown in a regenerative polyculture, which allows for enrichment of the soil, limits the use of water and fosters biodiversity. We are proposing to design a sustainable resource management as well as challenging existing strategies for material management and footwear production.

As a first step we are working on an ongoing extensive research of plant and animal based materials which could be used first to produce initial composite material samples and later for the production of final shoe prototypes. With our tech partner Haratech, we have already collected ideas and started planning a series of material experimentations with a rich variety of technologies. The samples we will produce will in the next step be a tool to investigate material qualities achieved through specific production processes using digital fabrication technologies and industrial equipment as well as testing processes and technologies to work with natural materials. Together with the University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz we will be working on the development of a system of parametric drawings, which will allow for a digital workflow for design and production of all the components of the shoe.

CRE - Wolfgang
Author: CRE - Wolfgang

Wolfgang is communication manager for Re-FREAM and project manager at CREATIVE REGION Linz & Upper Austria.