The World is Flat is a class offered by the University of Virginia (UVa) School of Architecture. This hands-on fabrication seminar introduces students to digital fabrication and is taught by Melissa Goldman, the architecture school’s manager of fabrication facilities.
But the world, and the buildings on it, aren’t flat. So why the name The World is Flat?
“Students who are learning design and construction techniques for spaces and structures usually deal with components that are initially flat, such as boards, sheet metal, panes of glass, and so on. These materials then have to be cut, milled, folded, nailed, welded, and bolted to build a building,” says Goldman. “To help push the boundaries of construction, this class encourages students to think differently about construction—exploring and experimenting with materials and fabrication techniques that can more efficiently turn flat things into real three-dimensional products.” But in a semester-long class, the type of product they can actually produce is limited.
Which is where shoe fabrication comes in.
Every semester, the course has a different fabrication focus—from subassemblies that fold flat to advanced CNC milling techniques. The focus of the course this spring was 3D printing. In the first half of the semester, the students split up into different groups to design and fabricate a real three-dimensional product: custom-fitted, 3D printed shoes, created with the help of Reality Computing.
Compute -- With Autodesk Fusion 360 software, the students used the model of that student’s foot to design a custom-fitted shoe around it—a shoe that could be 3D printed.
Create -- Iterations of the shoe design were printed for experimentation and testing on various types of 3D printers, some belonging to UVa and some in the manufacturing facility of a local shoe company: OESH Shoes. Goldman’s students were able to use OESH’s printers to prototype their designs beyond the capabilities of the 3D printers in Goldman’s facility—working with multi-material printers to explore and test how material selection and design choices influenced the flexibility and durability of their shoes.