Exploring Design, Site and Subject Matter vis-à-vis Public Art Engagement: Case Study of Āb-o-Ātash Park in Tehran





Tehran, Āb-o-Ātash, Design, Site, Subject matter, public engagement


This article is the result of an exploratory research on public art in Āb-o-Ātash park in Tehran. It investigates the way the three elements of design, site, and subject matter affect audience engagement with public

The research has been conducted through qualitative methods, namely unobtrusive observations and surveys. Artworks have been identified based on specifications extracted from discourse analysis of the concepts of publicness and authorship in public arts.

Thereafter, characteristics of the visual samples have been processed through cluster analysis with respect to design, site, and subject matter in order to be compared, and related to the results of observations of audience engagement.

The results propose a correlation between subject matters of the artworks and audience engagement in Āb-o-Ātash park.

Author Biography

Negar Zojaji, Department of Art Research, Faculty of Art, Alzahra University, Iran.

Negar Zojaji is a researcher of urban arts. She was awarded her doctorate in 2019 by Alzahra University in Tehran. She has lectured on art history at Shariaty Technical College of Tehran, and conducted research and published on urban art and creativity. Currently, she is working on a project that explores the intersection of urban humanities and gender studies.


Adorno, T., Adorno, G., & Tiedemann, R. (2002). Aesthetic Theory. London & New York: Continuum.

Akner-Koler, C. (2000). Three-dimensional visual analysis. Stockholm: konstfack.

Bogart, M. H. (2016). The Patronage Frame: New York City’s Mayors and the Support of Public Art. In A Companion to Public Art (pp. 3864–402). John Wiley & Sons.

Carr, S., Francis, M., Rivlin, L. G., & Stone, A. M. (1992). Public Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Carr, S., Francis, M., & Stone, A. M. (2007). Needs in Public Space. In Urban Design Reader (pp. 230–240). Architectural: Oxford.

Conner, L. (2013). Audience Engagement and the Role of Arts Talk in the Digital Era. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Costello, V. F. (2013). Tehran. In Problems and Planning in Third World Cities (pp. 156-186). Oxon: Routledge.

Craig, T., Conniff, A., & Galan-Diaz, C. (2012). The Influences of Actual and Perceived Familiarity on Environmental Preferences for the Design of a Proposed Urban Square. Urban Studies Research, 2012, 1–9. doi:

Dabashi, H. (2019). The Shahnameh: The Persian Epic as World Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.

Daly, J., Mahmoudi Farahani, L., Hollingsbee, T., & Ocampo, R. (2016). Measuring Human Experiences of Public Spaces:
A Methodology in the Making. Conscious Cities Journal, 1, 1-12.

Deutsche, R. (1995). Uneven Development: Public Art in New York City. In Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary
Cultures (Vol. 4). New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Fathi, S. S. (2016). Siavash Status in Mythology and Rituals. International Journal of History and Cultural Studies, 2 (3),

Gardner, S. (2003). Aesthetics. In Blackwell companions to philosophy (pp. 231–256). Oxford: Blackwell.

Hall, T. (2007). Artful Cities. Geography Compass, 1(6), 1376–1392. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2007.00064.x

Hewitt, A., & Jordan, M. (2015). Politicizing Publics: A Social Framework for Public Artworks. In Everyday Practices of Public Art: Art, Space and Social Inclusion (pp. 27–44). London: Routledge.

Hunt, E. (2016, May 27). Pair of glasses left on US gallery floor mistaken for art. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Kawulich, B. B. (2005). Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2). Retrieved from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/466/996.

Kent, F., & Nikitin, C. (2012). Collaborative, Creative Placemaking: Good Public Art Depends on Good Public Spaces. Retrieved from https://www.pps.org/article/collaborative-creative-placemaking-good-public-art-depends-on-goodpublic-spaces.

King, A. C. (2017). Walking Interviews. In Handbook of Research Methods in Health Social Sciences (pp. 1–22). Singapore: Springer.

Knight, C. K. (2009). Public art: theory, practice and populism. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.

Mayor of Tehran in World Urban Forum: “The Innovative Tehran” to Develop an Urban Innovation Biome. (2020, January 21). Iran. Retrieved from https://www.magiran.com/article/4012043

Munsterberg, M. (n.d.). Formal Analysis. In Writing about Art. Retrieved from http://writingaboutart.org/pages/formalanalysis.html.

Panofsky, E. (1955). Meaning in the visual arts: Papers in and on art history. Garden City: Doubleday.

Pinto, A. J. & Remesar, A. (2015). Urban Cohesion: A Public Space Network Assessment. On the W@terfront, 39 (2), 7-25.

Plagens, P. (1995). What Happens When American Art Goes Public? New England Review, 17(3), 58–65.

Prophet Ibrahim’s Garden: Refreshing Water and Heat of Fire. (2020). Retrieved May 25, 2020, from the Website of
Abasabad Complex at http://abasabad.tehran.ir/Default.aspx?tabid=771.

Recreation and Promenade of Tehrani Families in Abasabad complex. (2020). Retrieved April 18, 2020, from http://

Remesar, A., & Vidal, T. (2016). Urban Governance and Creative Participation in Public Space and Public Art. In The Art of Urban Design in Urban Regeneration: Interdisciplinarity, Policies, Governance, Public Space. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona.

Remesar, A. (2003). Waterfronts of Art- Public Art and Urban Design Interdisciplinary and Social Perspectives (Vol. 3). Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona.

Rendell, J. (2000). Public Art: Between Public and Private. In Advances in Art & Urban Futures (Vol. 1, pp. 19–26). Bristol & Portland: Intellect Books.

Rice, D. (1991). The Art Idea in the Museum Setting. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 25(4), 127–136. doi: 10.2307/3332910.

Robertson, J. T. (1978). Shahestan Pahlavi: Steps Toward a New Iranian Centre. In Toward an Architecture in the Spirit of Islam. Philadelphia: Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Rogers, L. R. (2019). Sculpture. In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/art/sculpture.

Several Opportunities Have Arisen for Artists to Flourish their Creativity, Sculptor Salarian Says. (2018). Retrieved May
25, 2020, from the website of Beautification Organization at https://ja.cat/FexxT

Shin, U.-C. (1990). Panofsky, Polanyi, and Intrinsic Meaning. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 24(4), 17. doi: 10.2307/3333104.

Talen, E. (2000). Measuring the Public Realm: A Preliminary Assessment of the Link Between Public Space and Sense of Community. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 17 (4), 344-360.

The Meaning of Contemporaneity in Art (Interview with Mohammad Salarian). (2014, September 10). Iran. Retrieved from https://www.magiran.com/article/3023260.

What Makes a Successful Place? (2005). Retrieved from https://www.pps.org/article/grplacefeat.

Wireman, P. (2008). Connecting the Dots: A Community Action Guide. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Wojnarowska, A. (2016). Model for Assessment of Public Space Quality in Town Centers. European Spatial Research and Policy, 23 (1), 81-109.

Wolfe, T., Crosbie, M. J., McDonough, M., & Wines, J. (2005). Site: identity in density (Vol. 6). Mulgrave, Victoria: Images Publishing.

Zojaji, N. (2019). Public Art Strategies for Developing Creative Public Spaces [Doctoral Dissertation, Alzahra University]. Iran treasure of scientific and technical information (Ganj).



How to Cite

Zojaji, Negar. 2020. “Exploring Design, Site and Subject Matter Vis-à-Vis Public Art Engagement: Case Study of Āb-O-Ātash Park in Tehran”. On the W@terfront 62 (6):3-25. https://doi.org/10.1344/waterfront2020.62.6.9.