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'Ad Hoc' chair

Chair
1968 (designed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The 'Adhocist' chair was designed by the architect and critic Nathan Silver as a dining chair. It featured on the cover of the influential book on design and architecture, Adhocism. A Case for Improvisation, by Nathan Silver and Charles Jencks, and became subsequently one of the most memorable and well-known furniture designs of the era. It is made completely of found elements. The frame is composed of bent steel gas pipe while other components are drawn from an agricultural tractor, a wheelchair and bicycle. The extensive application of existing material positions the object as a very early and innovative example of using recycling and 'bricolage' strategies (a term borrowed from the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss referring to tasks or structures realised by appropriating pre-existing materials which are ready to hand.)
The V&A's example of the 'Adhocist' is the first that Silver made and the one featured on the cover.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Steel gas pipe, black plastic foam insulation material, wheelchair wheels, bicycle axles and bearings, auto bumper bolts, chromed tractor seat, fluorescent vermilion paint and lacquer
Brief Description
Chair, 'Adhocist', steel gas pipe, wheelchair wheels, tractor seat, designed by Nathan Silver and manufactured in Linton, 1968.
Physical Description
Chair with painted steel gas pipe frame and chromed tractor seat on four wheels. The previously wheelchair wheels are mounted to bicycle axles which connect the front as well as the back wheels. The pairs of front and back wheels are connected by a tube (gas pipe) attached to the middle of the axles. From the middle of this tube another vertical tube is attached to connect with the seat. Unslotted chrome-domed auto bumper bolts are used to attach the seat to the chassis. Two additional tubes parallel on each side of the vertical tube connect the seat with the back which is formed by the two tubes bending backwards in a generous U-shape and upwards in parallel where they eventually bent outwards on each side and finally back to the front forming armrests. At the point before they bend outward there is a tube connection between the two for stability. The upper ends of this connection are covered in a small piece of thick black foam insulation material to provide some comfort for the back. The continuous tube is covered with thinner black foam material; a much longer segment of the thick foam insulation is used for the armrests. The gas pipe frame is painted in a fluorescent vermilion colour and finished with clear lacquer.
Dimensions
  • Height: 66cm
  • Width: 78cm
  • Depth: 76cm
Style
Production typeUnique
Object history
The chair is made completely of found elements. The frame is a steel gas pipe which has been bent to form the seat support and back/arm assembly. The radius of each curve is identical, because the engineering firm that built the chair to Silver's design, Crofton Engineering of Hadstock Road, Linton, Cambs., had only a single machine to do the job with an 8 inch wheel. Other components were parts of an agricultural tractor, wheelchair (manufactured by Zimmer Orthopedic) and bicycle. The tractor seat was possibly manufactured by the Ferguson Company for their TE20 tractor model and bought from A. Spafford & Co. It was chrome plated after purchase. The whole has been brought to a high level of finish through the use of chrome and vermilion paint. The total cost of the fabrication was £30, of which £15 was used to purchase the four wheels. This was a very early and innovative use of recycling and bricolage strategies.

The 'Adhocist' chair was made for Silver's house at 37 Earl Street in Cambridge. He owned the house until 1975. The flooring was made of rough brick. Silver used wheels because he wanted a seating that would not be damaged or produce a scraping sound when moved. It was intended as a dining chair. The wheels only needed to move in one axis, to pull in and out from the table.

The chair is the only extant example of the design. Silver did not make a full set of eight as originally intended. He cited cost as the reason. He made only two further chairs of this design (one fully chromed and one striped in imitation of a bicycle) and a backless stool (fully chromed). These were lost 15 years ago when a storage facility was inadvertently cleared and only the present chair was rescued. Thus the present chair is the only example of the design Silver has retained some components for the rest of the set of chairs and may create new versions.



Historical significance: This example is the first that Silver made of this design. It featured on the cover of 'Adhocism', Silver's book on design and architecture, and became subsequently one of the most memorable furniture designs of the era.
Historical context
In 1972 Nathan Silver and historian Charles Jencks published 'Adhocism: The Case for Improvisation'. This influential book on design and architecture surveyed the practice of 'bricolage' (Claude Levi-Strauss) in both everyday material culture and professional design. The therm 'bricolage' refers to constructing works from various materials available or on hand. The book brought together a hugely diverse range of material and looked ahead to the critical design strategies of postmodernism. The 'Adhocist' chair was used to illustrate the cover of the 'Adhocism'.
Summary
The 'Adhocist' chair was designed by the architect and critic Nathan Silver as a dining chair. It featured on the cover of the influential book on design and architecture, Adhocism. A Case for Improvisation, by Nathan Silver and Charles Jencks, and became subsequently one of the most memorable and well-known furniture designs of the era. It is made completely of found elements. The frame is composed of bent steel gas pipe while other components are drawn from an agricultural tractor, a wheelchair and bicycle. The extensive application of existing material positions the object as a very early and innovative example of using recycling and 'bricolage' strategies (a term borrowed from the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss referring to tasks or structures realised by appropriating pre-existing materials which are ready to hand.)

The V&A's example of the 'Adhocist' is the first that Silver made and the one featured on the cover.
Bibliographic Reference
Silver, Nathan and Charles Jencks. Adhocism : The Case for Improvisation. 1972.
Collection
Accession Number
W.37-2010

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record createdJanuary 4, 2011
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