You’re likely familiar with the Shakers because of their philosophy on design and making:
Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.
In Pleasant Hill, KY, is a preserved Shaker village where you can stroll along the grounds and through the buildings where they once lived. The architecture, landscape and furniture was — as you would expect — simple and beautiful.
What I found most fascinating though was a straightforward framework they had integrated into all of their living spaces. Spanning the walls in each room (at approximately the same height) was a strip of dark wood with evenly spaced pegs.
And since this framework was ubiquitous objects could be created to integrate seamlessly with it. In fact I don’t recall any nails in the wall, I suppose they weren’t necessary.
I was more keen to this setup than usual because there was a flurry of discussion at the time about frameworks and design, improvisation and how users interact with the framework created by the designer. Here are links to a few of the articles if you want to re-read them:
- Makers of Frames by Liz Danzico
- Designing for improvisation also by Liz Danzico
- Platforms as Tables, Tables as Platforms by Frank Chimero
As shown in the pictures above, this architectural setup provides a common language or standard that can be implemented into ancillary products. It provides an order to the chaos but is so simple in its implementation that it does not overburden the primary function of the object. The only requirement to participate in the framework is a 2-inch diameter hole.
But of course that’s not entirely true; an object need not be built specifically for the framework in order to be a participant in it. Take the picture of the kitchen prep room below: is there a better place to hang your dried herbs? Of course not.
I have thought a lot about this setup, but it has mostly ended with unanswered questions. Could this framework have been incubated and implemented outside of a close-knit community? Would something so simple and so integrated be able to exist in a modern living space today? Can I design better websites by studying systems like these?
What do you think?