When Hatfield segued from architecture to sneaker design, Nike was positioned to become a billion dollar company. Yet, the competition was quickly catching up on them and they were losing ground in virtually every athletic footwear category besides basketball which was buoyed by the Air Jordan 1 at the time.“As an architect I had the feeling I could bring something new to the table in terms of design especially compared to the shoes that were in the marketplace at that time,”Hatfield says. “So, I began working on a renegade set of shoes that were not part of a design brief or marketing drive: the Air Max 1.”While other designers might have looked at something like a cheetah or another fleet-of-foot animal for inspiration – given the very nature of how Nike was trying to empower consumers to run and jump higher – Hatfield’s approach was decidedly different and harkened back to his own roots as an industrial inventor.
“A lot of us at Nike have traveled extensively to try and be inspired and to understand people from all over the world in different cities, cultures and religions,” Hatfield says. “I had known about this very interesting and very innovative and very controversial building called the Georges Pompidou Centre. It’s one of my ‘must-sees’ when I went to Paris. Coming into the plaza surrounding the centre, you can see the stark contrast between the traditional French style of mansard roofs, small windows and row housing. And then to see this large, almost machine-like building sort of ‘spilling its guts to the world.’ In other words, you could just see everything. You could see the escalators and the heating and air conditioning and the levels of the different parts of the museum. You could see people. It really inspired me because it shook the world of architecture and urban design. It changed the way that people looked at buildings.”
The building itself was opened in 1977 following a six-year build period. Prompted into action by then President Georges Pompidou who decided that the vacant site of the Plateau Beaubourg should be used for the construction of a multidisciplinary cultural center of an entirely new type, he inevitably turned to architects Renzo Piano of Italy and Richard Rogers of England who had beaten out 681 entries as part of a design competition.Rather than attempt to mimic the surrounding architecture from the Second Empire and Beaux-Arts period, the duo decided to create something that unveiled the inner-workings of the structure. Whereas in the past, designers did their best to hide what made the building inhabitable, Piano and Rogers decided to actually embrace it.