For our Humanities class, we had to choose an ordinary object and observe it through an artistic and scientific lens and then talk about which perspective impacted us the most. I decided to go with a door knob, and I must say that it turned out even better than I expected. Read more to find out 🙂 


What is a knob?


It is a small piece of hardware, usually rounded, used to open and close a door or a drawer.


How didn’t I notice it until now? I never really bothered. But it’s funny because, without this little thing, I wouldn’t be able to enter my room and close the door behind me. I also wouldn’t be able to pull open the bathroom cabinet’s drawer and take out my hairbrush every morning. 

The more that I think of it, the more and more ideas start to invade my brain and my senses. 


It was the summer of 2019, when I was visiting Paris with my father…Hundreds of pictures were taken. The memory of one of these photos struck me the moment I chose my subject for this project; the image of the golden oval-shaped vintage door knob at the Louvre. Something in the back of my mind suddenly awakened.

Arthur Danto said that one of the things art requires is the participation of the audience in order to fill what is missing. Furthermore, R. G Collingwood believes that art is a collaboration between the artist and the viewer and that by reflecting and expressing, we can acquire self-knowledge. We can see that two conceptions can merge into one.

To explain this, we need to come back to my photograph, and see it from a distinctive perspective. Compared to before, I noticed that the charm and the warm atmosphere are not brought by myself only, but also by the things around me. And this old luxurious knob really seems to be in perfect symbiosis with the rest of the elements. It’s like it plays a contextual role in making this beautiful picture, like a piece of art that is waiting in silence, for the audience. If I would’ve been a little more to the right, covering this splendid knob, the impression of the viewer would be less expressive and there would be less to reflect upon. And if I would’ve paid more attention at that time, observing the little details, I would’ve probably fallen in love with this knob and I would’ve started to search more about its history, as I will start to do now. But right before that, my imagination goes years back, to a fisherman village in northern Europe. There lives a young boy that used to hide every day in the attic and play with the rusty lock of the door. Later on, he’s a grown-up man, finishing the Beaux Arts University, and he does his diploma project on a door knob, which gets to impress and move the whole world. I let my imagination create this story so I can figure out what Tolstoy meant by saying “…hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.” 


I looked closely into my house and I realized that we have exactly 42 door knobs and 42 knobs for the cabinets. This is funny, right? 29 of them are golden and the rest are silver. All the door knobs from my house have the same shape with a very simple and traditional design. It seems to be a very popular model. I did a technical sketch of it (sent on Mio, along with the artistic picture). At the base of it, knobs are a mechanical component. If you find yourself wanting to enter a room, you must usually twist and pull the knob, and once inside, you simply push the door to a closing. This works because of the latch that disengages when the knob is turned. Once inside, you can also lock the knob. For a long time, the concept of locks has remained pretty much the same once invented by Osborn Dorsey in the 19th century. They usually kept their round shape but their design has something that each artist brought to it. “Everybody has to work on the scenario of evolution. Everybody has the duty to bring anything they can to that. “ said Philippe Starck, a legend of modern design, in an interview. And of course, knobs wouldn’t make an exception to this rule. Nowadays, biometric knobs which open our door when recognizing our voice, our retina or fingerprints are waiting right around the corner. 

We, ourselves have a knob with a digital and wireless system for the main door to our house. It can even be operated from a distance, with the help of an application on our smartphone. The system replaced the key but the knob remains the same. I am glad, because now, after I learned more about this object, I started to get more fond of it. 


If I had to choose between the artistic side and the scientific one, it would be too hard to do. As a future architect, I have to be open not only to the design of the objects that I will propose to my clients but also to the new technology that arises. Therefore, in my opinion, the knob should be treated equally, from an artistic and scientific perspective. What I have started to discuss earlier is only the tip of the iceberg. I feel like I am just at the beginning and there is a lot more research to do about this tiny object, which seemed not so important at first. I will certainly pay more attention when choosing the knobs in my future house. I will treat them with much more respect while thinking of the artist and his intention behind it. It could be minimalistic, futuristic, vintage or pay a tribute perhaps, to the classic style. And above all, I will keep in mind that this little fellow is often an intruder in our family photos, inside the house. Like a bird that flies in the background or a plant behind the patio door, the knobs are constituent elements of our daily lives. It seems that door knobs even had an impact on literature. For example, there are a few expressions about it like “with brass knobs on” or “ ‘knobs on”. In the spiritual realm, the significance of the door knob can be found in its role as a barrier between two worlds or the turning of time, a portal or a passageway into the unknown.