Abstract This paper reports additions to the commercial, object-oriented language, Smalltalk-80 and their incorporation into a knowledge based environment, POISE. These additions are suitable for the purposes of knowledge representation of engineering design. A dynamic, knowledge representation scheme is supported that allows temporary associations between objects residing in separate, static, hierarchical structures. Message passing between these associated objects is dynamic. Messages are passed, incompletely satisfied, between socially acquainted objects in order to complete a computation. We show that a computing paradigm previously achieved by a specific language, written in the Actor tradition, can also be achieved in a strictly class-instance based language which is then used to create a design knowledge representation environment. A simple, accessible example is used to illustrate the power and generality of the new language.