Siah Armajani: Spaces for the Public. Spaces for Democracy.

Exhibition Review

Seems comfortable to be honest but also a bit weird in terms of form

Siah Armajani’s notion of ‘Common sense architecture‘ created a certain rustic aesthetics for his artworks that speaks about rawness to me. This was perhaps done by mixing both warm and cool materials (i.e. wood and metal) that creates contrast. I’m not sure of its intention other than to use rural-found materials, but it does give off an odd vibe.

Joey taking photos but I also want to capture the metal racks that I like

The materials are also cut in a sharp and straight way. I tested the sharpness of an edge of the Sacco & Vanzetti Reading Room #3 and it was actually sharp enough to cause injury. The intention of the room being for common use, together with the hostility of the materials makes it quite a conflict in me to approach the structure.

I wanted to try breaking the 90 degree rule but Fizah stopped me. I guess the angular look makes it feel more uniform but also uneasy

Still, I love the solidness of the forms he give to the furnitures and the beams that hold up the structures. This leaves me wondering how the material itself can affect the hostility / hospitality of a space.

I don’t understand the pencils so I’m not gonna talk about it

Some other observations:

  • Why did he chose to use bricks to on the floor to welcome visitors into the reading room?
  • Why is everything so 90 degree? Could it be to create the idea of sharpness?
  • The books are welcoming, I wouldn’t mind reading them
  • But the placement of the books are at the bottom, which makes it hard to reach, intentional discomfort?
  • How would it look in an outdoor setting? Would indoor light affect the experience of being in the reading room? Or the other pieces? Especially the pieces with metal, as it is very reflective to light.
  • The hip-leveled sharp metal corners are a potential danger for kids

Another thing that attracted me was the compositions of his Tomb for Heidegger and the Tomb for Richard Rorty which features wooden ‘pens’ that has many holes that allow light in. I think I’m just fascinated with house-like structures that have an interior that one can imagine moving around in.

Also, I really love the computer-generated short films he made. Maybe I’m just a sucker for vintage electronic aesthetics, but there is something very satisfying about seeing computer generated mathematics-based interactions.

I also like his take on public art from his manifesto, particularly these:

“Public sculpture is less about self-expression and the myth of its maker and more about its civicness.”,

“Public sculpture is a cooperative production. … To give all the credit to the individual artist is misleading and untrue.”,

“public sculpture should not intimidate, assault, or control the public. It should enhance a given place.”

Through these, he suggests that there is a higher purpose in art that is in public, which I truly agree on. (if only this don’t just apply in public art) Art and their artists should not be self-absorbed and overly vague, but has a purpose. I think I appreciate what he do a lot more after reading this.


I think this exhibition was quite informative in terms of how we can apply architectural ideas into our interactive spaces. I understand that it is not just the interaction, but also the setting and the feel of a space that makes up an interaction, which in my opinion is equally important to the interaction we design for the users of the space. I think his philosophy is also a good takeaway for me, and I’m glad to know that there are still humble well-known artists out there that truly wants to make the world a better place.

One Reply to “Siah Armajani: Spaces for the Public. Spaces for Democracy.”

  1. I agree it would be interesting to see if you can use any of the ideas garnered from Armajani’s work and manifesto…his philosophy to try some experiments in public art during this class.  This particular installation has a lot of deliberate details that you insightfully noted which both invite and repel (or make uncomfortable) the viewer and visitor.

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