Speculative Citizen Design
research project

Open Call

Distancer Shoes  |  Grigore Lup

Romanian cobbler Grigore Lup, from the city of Cluj, as well as his staff of 10, were affected by pandemic restrictions as orders from theatres and operas were significantly reduced. During this time, he developed physical distancing shoes in a special pandemic (European) size 75. They take two days to make and were designed with the idea that two people facing each other while wearing the shoes would keep a 1.5 metre distance.

A true contestatory designer (See also: → Inside-outsiders, Tony Fry), Lup brought attention to his practice, local European craft and the standstill of cultural stages and folk dances, all while presenting and testing his speculative proposal in the real world. The finished product bears resemblance to artist and designer Jacques Carelman’s humourous proposals in Catalogue d’Objets Introuvables (Catalogue of Impossible Objects) and in the sense of → Dunne & Raby’s A/B manifesto, it is an instant, high-end provocation, applied art between satire and conversation piece.

Rather than conceptual museum pieces, Lup’s three pairs of initial designs were produced as a proposal to be showcased online in May 2020, and listed for sale. At first, this did not draw customers, but instead national TV stations and soon the attention of journalists globally. Self-reportedly, even though the shoes were intended primarily as a joke and a distancing awareness piece, Lup subsequently received some international orders for custom-made distancer shoes. His distancer shoes representing a one-off intervention, the workshop later on resumed its regular production, while still listing the product on its website for custom orders as → ‘Pantofi pentru Distantare Sociala PDS.1’. Thus embedded in the workshop’s day-to-day business operations and without any lengthy description, the distancer shoes are works of speculative citizen design able to provoke debate by their mere existence.

Artisan, Physical Distancing, Communication

Further reading:
Ritschel, Chelsea, “Romanian shoemaker makes size 75 shoes for social distancing“ Independent, 03 June 2020
“Shoemaker creates size 75 shoes to help enforce social distancing”, EFE, 05 June 2020
Carelman, Jacques. Catalogue d’Objets Introuvables. Éditions André Balland, 1969