Review: Temporary Reading Room at 221A

by Sarah Davidson

What better place to contemplate utopian design than from a lounging-appropriate, “hippie-idealist,” parachute-covered, 1970s-style couch? This particular couch, in the entrance way of 221A, previously lived in a Dan Graham exhibition (for which the artist asked John Chamberlain to recreate a design from 1970). It was recently donated to the artist-run centre, and its current iteration as a sort of spatial intervention feels fitting.

The couch, and 221A, is the site of a public reading room focused on design, with texts ranging from Hal Foster to Le Corbusier, and topics spanning modernist furniture, math fiction and public art, to name a few. The reading room runs in conjunction with the current show, And He Built A Crooked House, on until July 26.

The arrangement is cozy and clever, and came with a free breakfast at the launch on Saturday morning. Visitors mowed down some seriously sweet thick toast, topped with Hainanese Kaya and condensed milk, which is “classic Hong Kong style,” according to Special Projects Director Michelle Fu.


The breakfast was also the launch of an artist book about breakfast, the result of a series of breakfasts put on in 2012 by Jaz Halloran and Anna Gukov. For each meal, the artists and attendees would create a poster.  These look strangely spare and geometric, and directly reference the food eaten. My recommendation: stop in sometime and read, look at the picture books and maybe think about what you would have been doing on the couch if it was 1970.