1. a single person for a single person

Enzo Mari, “Autoprogettazione“, 1974

Here is the chapter about people doing things for themselves.

It is apparently the simplest case, the bricoleur. A new character, taking more and more relevance in today’s world (and today’s economy).

What is interesting for us is the complex psychological world behind this. Why does an hobbist buy the fanciest tools related to his pastime? Here the hyphotesis is related to his personal representation. He buys the fanciest drill, hammer, paint not to impress the clerk, not to impress his girlfriend, but rather to impress himself. The goal is to become an expert in his (her) own personal theatre. The person who knows, the person who is knowlegeable.

The hobbist is the main character in a special theatre he set up for himself (at a very high cost, by the way).

The person who works for himself is only apparently simple. The old gentleman producing his own whiskey (or the old lady with the basel on her balcony to cook a great pesto) is in some extents similar to Le Corbusier building up his Cabanon in his late years.

Le Corbusier, Cabanon, 1951/2

The difference between our grandmother and Le Corbusier is in how conscious they are in respect of their activity (being Le Corbusier extremely conscious and our grandmother not so conscious).

Contemporary technology allows everyone to build almost everything in a very simple way and at a very low cost (think for instance to the laser cut technologies). Yet, although we have all these tools (software to generate music in an easy way is another realm) does not produce incredible new things. In the best cases (if we talk about product design) we have silly reproductions of existing shapes in new materials. A family of things defined by Gillo Dorfles as “kitsch“.

Of course on this theme we can go broader and wider. Having to draw a line we would put at one end “common sense” (my grandmother) and to the other end “total craziness”.

The above mentioned Le Corbusier, when young, did travel Middle East keeping a diary where he did mark down all things he did see and all kind of interesting thoughts (to keep a diary is a typical “common sense” activity). Then of course we have a difference between the Codex Atlanticus by Leonardo Da Vinci and the diary kept by a World War II soldier when prisoner in Germany or United States. Still, they are similar examples of people who did work in first instance for themselves.

Le Corbusier, Carnet de voyage (sketchbook), 1911

Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus, 1503

At the opposite we could mention “the man who never threw anything away” (an excellent art piece by Ilya Kabakov) or the quite famous Collyer brothers

Ilya Kabakov, “The man who never threw anything away (the garbage man)”, 1988

The police enters the Collyer brothers house after their death, 1947. The house was filled with 30 tons of junk and garbage.

Another interesting example is Ferdinand Cheval, the French mailman who spent 36 years to build his own castle, stone after stone. In terms of design, a truly excellent work, done by a person who would work only for himself.

Ferdinand Cheval, Palais Ideal, 1879/1912

Finally, the hobbist is quite interesting world to explore, because it forces us to explore the most hidden areas of our mind. The “what” can change: from Ettore Sottsass going to the desert to build his “metaphors” all the way to our neighbour spending his week-ends busy in his garden.

Ettore Sottsass, “Metaphors”

It is about a special tension, allowing us to move from DIY (do-it-yourself) to the desire of complete control and domination. To control everything to the finest level of details. To the designer (or rather, to the sociologist) to ask the reason behind.

This class is not about anthropology but we are clearly facing one of those deep mechanism we are carrying along since we were living in caves some thousands years ago.

Name and things useful + important (to be remembered for the exam):

Leonardo Da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus

Ferdinand Cheval and his world

Le Corbusier, “Journey to the East” (diaries) + some images

Le Corbusier, “Cabanon

Enzo Mari, “Autoprogettazione

Ettore Sottsass, “Design Metaphors


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