University Of Tasmania
Steen_Spirit-of-Adhocism.pdf (134.8 kB)
Download file

The spirit of adhocism and brilliant selective editing

Download (134.8 kB)
conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 12:48 authored by Andrew SteenAndrew Steen

In “Urgency and Purpose,” the first section of “The Spirit of Adhocism,” the first chapter of Part One of *Adhocism: The Case for Improvisation* (1972), Charles Jencks includes an extended quotation from Claude Lévi-Strauss’s *The Savage Mind* (1966). The 116-word block, which provides a loose definition of the “bricoleur,” begins with a three-point ellipsis, and includes two further threepoint ellipses. In his *New Society* article “Bricologues à la lanterne” (1976), Reyner Banham describes this quotation as “a brilliant piece of selective editing from which the original meaning has been totally mislaid.” Viewed biographically, the interaction expresses a deteriorating interpersonal relationship between former doctoral student and supervisor. Viewed formally, however, Jencks’s quotation and Banham’s critique prompt questions about the rules and impacts of quotations within architectural discourse.

This paper will investigate the textual properties of Jencks’s quotation of Lévi-Strauss in the contexts of Banham’s evaluation of its functioning. It will involve two parts. The first part of the paper will interrogate the parameters Banham might have applied to conclude Jencks’s Lévi-Strauss quotation is a misrepresentation of the original text. It will scrutinise the editing that transformed Lévi-Strauss’s original piece of writing into Jencks’s fragment. The use of typographical ellipses in relation to excluded words and concepts will be of particular significance. The second part of the paper will reframe the apparent sarcasm within Banham’s assertion and probe how Jencks’s quotation might indeed be deemed “brilliant”. It will consider how a quotation might function effectively despite failing to accurately relay its source. Metatextual aspects of the quotation will form the basis of this second part, which will highlight the significance of the discursive function of “The Spirit of Adhocism.”


Publication title

Proceedings of The 34th Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, Canberra




School of Architecture and Design


Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand

Place of publication


Event title

The 34th Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, Canberra

Event Venue


Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Rights statement

Copyright 2017 the Author

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Communication not elsewhere classified

Usage metrics