Siah Armajani (b. 1939, Tehran) moved to the United States from Iran in 1960. He attended Macalester College, in Minnesota, where he studied philosophy. His sculptures, drawings and public works exist between the boundaries of art and architecture, informed by democratic and populist ideals. Armajani is recognized as a leading figure in the conceptualization of the role and function of public art, with nearly one hundred projects realized internationally since the 1960s.
The artist’s education in Western thought and philosophy began in Tehran, where he attended a Presbyterian school for Iranian students, and continued through his undergraduate years in the US. Early theoretical interests continue to influence his work, taking form in objects and architectural spaces designed in homage to literary, philosophical and political figures like Martin Heidegger, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodor Adorno, Ahmad Shamlou and Alfred Whitehead.
American vernacular architecture has been a consistent visual motif in Armajani’s practice, and is manifest in his public works, including bridges, gardens and outdoor structures. In the artist’s words: ‘I am interested in the nobility of usefulness. My intention is to build open, available, useful, common, public gathering places – gathering places that are neighbourly’. These concerns take form in his ongoing series titled Reading Rooms and Reading Gardens, as well as public spaces, pavilions and shelters for social exchanges or solitary meditation.
Armajani’s work is in numerous public collections, including Art Institute of Chicago; British Museum, London; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Dallas Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; M+, Hong Kong; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.