I just grabbed an updated edition of Charles Jencks’ and Nathan Silver’s 1972 book project Adhocism: The Case for Improvisation. It’s quite surprising and interesting on first skim; and the basic premise — that people everywhere, all the time are inventing things to meet unmet needs and desires — resonates with me. The Think Tank has been slowly developing a project in the spirit of adhocism that would archive vernacular design tactics used by common people in Philadelphia. And in my design seminar this morning, my students and I discussed the increasingly porous boundaries between designer and non-designer, particularly in response to the democratization of sophisticated design tools as well as the expanding scope of design practice. Adhocism represents an early attempt to theorize how design the profession might be informed and shaped by informal, vernacular interventions.
Jencks and Silver write:
But a new mode of direct action is emerging, the rebirth of a democratic mode and style, where everyone can create his personal environment out of impersonal subsystems, whether they are new or old, modern or antique. By realizing his immediate needs, by combining ad hoc parts, the individual creates, sustains and transcends himself. Shaping the local environment towards desired ends is a key to mental health; the present environment, blank and unresponsive, is a key to idiocy and brainwashing.