How the Centre Georges Pompidou of Paris Inspired the Air Max of Nike


Born in 1987 in the United States, Nike Air Max, characterized by its apparent air bubble at the level of the sole, is today one of the most iconic shoes in the world, declined in about fifty models in total. Perfect incarnation of the success story to the American, it is nevertheless in the heart of Paris that this shoe sees the day. In his documentary Respect The Architects - The Paris Air Max 1 Story , the French director Thibaut de Longeville reveals how much the Center Georges Pompidou was a source of inspiration for Tinker Hatfield, the creator of The Air Max 1, and how much these two objects (the museum and the basketball) were, each in their own way, a revolution in the respective worlds of architecture and sportswear. "With Nike, we have traveled a lot to try to better understand the culture of people around the world," says the designer. "I had heard about this very innovative building in Paris, very controversial too, which intrigued me very much: the Centre Georges Pompidou."

Making the invisible visible

In 1985, Tinker Hatfield, who joined the Nike team four years earlier, traveled to the city of light to visit the Georges Pompidou Center, a building whose bold architecture, especially designed by Italian Renzo Piano, had "[The novelty of the architecture of the center], its radicality, its deliberate rupture with the conventions, and even its provocation, hurt the public opinion Public, thus recalls the site of the museum. By qualifying it as 'Notre-Dame des Tuyaux', 'refinery', 'gas plant' or 'hangar de l'art', critics denounce its incongruous architecture.

During his visit, Tinker Hatfield is first struck by the blatant contrast between the Haussmannian architecture that encircles the building, and the ultra-innovative character of the latter. But what most fascinates him is the way in which what one would have usually wished to see hidden (the large pipes, the metal escalators, the internal structure of the building ...) was exposed and painted In vivid colors, thus offering themselves with force to the passers-by. "It really inspired me because it changed the world of architecture, urban design," says Tinker Hatfield in Respect The Architects. It really changed the way people looked at the buildings. "

The Air Max 1, a basket considered "risky" in its beginnings


Back in Portland, still very much marked by his visit to the Center Georges Pompidou, Tinker Hatfield begins to develop what will become the Air Max 1: a running basket whose sole, made up of air bubbles, is revealed to the eyes of all. The air cushion technology ("Air Sole") already existed for almost two years at Nike, but this was the first time it was exposed to the open. This, in the first place, unanimously rejects the leaders of Nike, who judge the product too "risky".


"Renzo Piano wanted the Center Georges Pompidou to be visible from a distance, surprising and even provocative. This is also what I wanted to do with the Air Max, pushing my vision as far as I could ... without getting fired, "says Tinker Hatfield smiling. Ambitious, convincing, the latter will finally manage to impose his shoe: in 1987, the Air Max 1 invades the market.

The VaporMax, worthy descendant of the Air Max family


Thirty years after this start, the Air Max 1, recently reissued in a new range of colors, still shines with a thousand lights. To pay homage to the birth of this unavoidable shoe, and to the unknown history behind it, the firm comma chose to illuminate the facade of the Center Georges Pompidou. On Saturday, March 25th, at nightfall, Nike projected an unreleased film on the 6,000 m2 of the museum's façade, watched by a hundred specially gathered people, including Tinker Hatfield himself.

In this short but powerful film all mapping, at the heart of which hides "Vision", the new clip of the French rapper Joke, Nike retraces the 30 years of existence of the Air Max family and presents its latest creation: the VaporMax. A model specifically designed for running, with an unheard-of lightness, in which the foot is directly placed on the sole formed of an air bubble. An umpteenth "revolution", to use the words of Tinker Hatfield. "If you do not try different new ideas, you will never really evolve and get a better result," he said on Saturday night. The Air Max is an open window on the future."

Words: Naomi Clément
Photography: Courtesy of Nike