The first Mars Yard edition was created in 2012 for a New York exhibition of sculptures of space equipment, including exploratory vehicles, suits and control stations.
The shoes were based on Sachs‘ meetings with NASA scientists, and designed for a mechanical engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Lab who created the airbags used in the Mars Exploration Rover missions.
The trainers were made using Vectran, the same fabric the airbags are made from, and also incorporated details borrowed from lunar overshoes worn by astronauts.
However, after members of Sachs’ New York studio started wearing the sneakers on a daily basis, they noticed signs of wear and tear.
“It passed the abrasion test. It passed the strength test. It passed the folding test. It passed all the tests, but when we started using it, it didn’t meet our expectations,” said the artist.
The second edition of the Mars Yard trainers replaces the Vectran material with a polyester mesh that’s more breathable and wicks away moisture, and the design uses a stronger stitch for the shoe’s red loops. The upper includes undyed suede, and the tongue exposes its inner foam stuffing.
The first design featured protruding soles created for the desert, which have now been modified for more everyday environments, and the trainer also comes with a cork sole, included for sockless wearing.
“I have always embraced flaws,” added the artist. “The natural polyurethane midsole shows wear. The shoe shows evidence of experiences, even the little bits of tongue that may flake off are like forensic thread.”
Hosted in a New York warehouse from 8 to 18 June, the hour-long course challenged participants to take part in a series of drills and obstacle courses. By completing the course, attendees earned themselves early access to the trainers.
Tom Sachs has made a name for himself with his sculptural recreations, which include Knoll furniture created using phone books and tape, and a foam and glue version of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation.
He’s one of a spate of designers to have found inspiration in the red planet. Other include MAD founder Ma Yansong, who created a set of furniture intended for future Mars colonisation. ￼
German designer Franziska Steingen took a more morbid approach, crafting a grieving set for astronauts that don’t make the journey to the planet.
Photography by Angela Pham, Neil Rasmus of BFA.com and Nike & Tom Sachs.