The Architecture of 1,250 Hanging Letters Tells Classic Story

The installation “Something Floating,” which architecture student Panharith Ean is setting up in Siem Reap City, spawned from an idea to create a room without walls.

“Having smaller pieces and a lot of them can create an environment,” he said. “It might be a different, special experience of a space…sitting in a room with four walls versus sitting in a space that has 1,000 strings around you.”

Panharith Ean sets up his installation 'Something Floating' at the 1961 Coworking and Art Space in Siem Reap City on Wednesday. (Loven Ramos)
Panharith Ean sets up his installation ‘Something Floating’ at the 1961 Coworking and Art Space in Siem Reap City on Wednesday. (Loven Ramos)

At his exhibition opening Friday at the 1961 Coworking and Art Space, Mr. Ean invites people to meander through an installation consisting of 1,250 clear plastic threads.

Each thread will be anchored by a single letter painted orange or yellow—together forming words and sentences from the classic book “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Mr. Ean, a 23-year-old from Phnom Penh, devised the installation with fellow student Greg Jimmie at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where he completed his undergraduate studies last year and will soon return to begin work on his Master’s degree.

“For the most part, at least in architecture, people tend to be more technical,” he said. “A house needs to have specific function…. It’s important to have functional spaces, but it’s also important to have spaces that can transform people emotionally and can start a conversation.”

With this in mind, the two students conceived the installation as “an exploration of architectural space, of story and narrative, and how space can communicate stories to the people that inhabit it,” he said.

The number of threads was decided upon using a computer program, the student said, so that people can read the words hanging at different heights and be able to move through the installation.

“We tried to figure out the minimal amount of strings to create the most density in that space…and the distance we want between each string so that the letters can sit comfortably next to each other,” Mr. Ean said.

The exhibition opens at 7 p.m. on Friday and will run through June 8.

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