Editorial: A scientific magazine for Interior Architecture?
It is with pleasure that I welcome this “Number Zero” of Inner Magazine, and I would like to thank Maria Maddalena Margaria for her work and her determination to bring it into being.
That’s a magazine with an ambitious goal: trying to support the disciplinary path, the theoretical and methodological afterthought of a branch -interior architecture- which is so crucial for design, yet so underestimated in the academic and educational area. Inner Magazine, however, also aims at providing corroborative evidence of the latest works, the identification of trends and the crux of contemporary interior design. Once again, I have to say that’s very ambitious. I believe that only a close collaboration between scholars from all over Europe which unfortunately has been missing for a while now, could successfully pursue this goal.
This Number Zero has the explicit goal of pointing out any possible exploration and insights. Interiors, as we all know, are the primordial raison d’être of architecture. The delimitation of a fence, and then of an enclosed space; the need to have interiors and exteriors; the identification of a vacuum in which they can live is a need we could undoubtedly define, in its roots, as instinctive and animal.
Many charming and intriguing essays accompanied us in the past exploration of this sphere, but the domain of interior architecture has been hybridized, depending on the cases, with expressions such as “interior design”, “decoration”, “furniture” and “arrangement and setting”, which led to a hybridized identity, too, both in research and educational procedures.
As Graeme Brooker says, “… . the definition and cultures of practice, research and education in the subject are yet to be unequivocally consolidated and explicitly systematized”.
We cannot fail to recognize that, interior architecture is an “interdisciplinary discipline”, although it might sound as an oxymoron: Els de Vos rightly points out that it “is a fluid field, situated between designing disciplines, the arts, humanities, social sciences and exact sciences. It comprises for example aspects of architecture, urbanism, environmental psychology, anthropology, product design, furniture design and aesthetics. It focuses on the relation, or at least interaction, between the user and its direct environment”.
In addition, interior architecture relates to individual behaviors, while architectural design can allow itself to take collective ones into consideration. And while architectural design refers to generic users, interior design relates to a specific client. These differences aren’t minor at all: the “architectural gesture” has to give meaning to everyday life.
Nor we can pretend we ignore the fact that the evolution of social, cultural and communicative dynamics, together with extraordinary technological innovations, requires highly specialised skills in designing different interiors.
The essays proposed in this Number Zero give a (partial) overview of such skills.
First of all, home design. It’s the very heart of Architecture. It’s essential to be aware of the historical roots of interior attitudes, but it is even more important to acknowledge its fundamental role in the design process: it is neither a consequence, nor a corollary. Conversely, the overwhelming force of the disciplines of planning, which investigate the structure of human settlements considered as systems, has inevitably and progressively shifted the focus on interiors towards the final phases of the project.
As usual, the reconstruction of a story is important to understand not only the stylistic evolution of interiors, but also the formation and the development of the disciplinary identity. From this point of view, the essay by Elena Dellapiana, recalling among other things that “…. only the research between the two aspects, the space organization and the objects choice or project, could really show the deep spirit of the interiors’ design”, offers us some interesting causes for further reflection. “Interior historians – she adds – have to interpret and untie the knots related to the mutual influences between architecture and design”.
Certainly, the essay by Elena Dellapiana gives us enough food for thought, necessary to avoid misunderstandings such as considering “furniture design” and “interior design” as synonyms or very similar concepts: this is why I usually prefer to speak about “Interior Architecture”, so that the primacy of space on objects is evident, despite their key role in the project. This difference is not always very clear to our clients – and not even to all our students.
In addition to housing – that is the subject of countless studies, which would deserve a number of special issues alone –many other areas of expertise are worth analyzing when dealing with project of interiors.
The “working spaces” are a mirror of social, economic and technological civilization: Ricardo Guasch rightly points out that “…the office’s interior design must take into account the circumstances which affect the broad social spectrum populating the new work environments…” , thereby reaffirming the unique role, even in a predominantly digital and virtual context, of “…its physical equivalent, the architectural form, can relax and counterbalance this order, offering a suggestive reality and using its tactile nature to activate the user’s awareness of the physical environment (…) this tactile space can welcome the individual, increasing his or her performance through configurations which facilitate concentration, and even solitude with the option of isolation”. The result is, of course, an extreme need for specialization and continuing professional updating in this specific field of design.
As many as two essays address the field of so-called “retail design”, and it is no coincidence. As Maria Maddalena Margaria reminds us, “…minimal research is conducted on real retail spaces as a whole and on the reactions of consumers to those spaces. Retail research has traditionally been undertaken by the marketing and management areas often leaving a gap in the design analysis.(…) Retail Design is a major discipline within the interiors area, a privileged place for innovation and experimentation, yet academics have started to study it closely only in the last decade….”. As a matter of fact, Retail Design is inherently open to innovation, but it is also a field that really needs addressing through a trans-disciplinary approach: “…truly combining both social sciences and design disciplines (i.e.. working together) leads to significant gains for all stakeholders” (Katelijn Quartier). The potential of retail design has been long underestimated from a research and educational point of view because “ we argue that designing for retail asks for an extra, specialized, training. Over the last fifteen years retail design education has come to the fore at university level. Beforehand, only retail management had its own curriculum (…) We see that retail design is educated in different design disciplines ranging from interior design, product design to architecture, leading to specific trainings with each their own accent”(Katelijn Quartier).
May I add a few words about the design of cultural spaces in general, and especially museum design, a branch of interior design revealing its own specific identity, i.e. museography, which has produced theoretical and practical results of great interest, especially from the twentieth century on. Interdisciplinary contributions are deeply connected to the final outcome of the exhibition space, a space that could be iconic, educational, symbolic, but which must always meet the demands for a comfortable, accessible, communicative, functional interior. It has been said that interior architecture is the part of a project where architects cannot avoid applying their physiological and psychological knowledge: in specialized spaces such as a selling point or a museum, that is even truer and more decisive than ever.
However, this issue lacks a tribute to scenography, a discipline with a long history, that often lends its devices to architectural design itself. To give just one example, the importance of the visuals (basic concept for any interior design) is one of the key points in this discipline and deserves attention. As the polysemy of forms and environments, this should not only be the backdrop of a story but also an instrument of identification, interpretation, and memorisation.
One last remark. In many countries (at least, in Italy), the educational curricula devote very little attention to Interior Design. Not all students, at the end of their path, have specifically addressed this issue and very often the skills of young professionals will be formed “going into the field”. A specific interest of the students for this field is expected, of course, but in that case they are directed towards post-graduate courses, masters’ degrees and so on.
Nonetheless, the interior design instruments are extremely rich and educational for a young designer: “One has to deal with architectural environments as well as objects, with spaces as well as more ephemeral backdrops. The challenge consists of connecting all these aspects together, including the virtual space of the social media” (Els de Vos). Reducing the interior design to a specific scale, as well as to individual and private (or semiprivate) behavior only, is rather limiting. Instead, we must answer questions such as those put by Els de Vos: “How do interiors contribute to the formation of a community? How can interior spaces be inclusive? How can they invite a diversity of users? How can they shelter the growing super diversity of our society? How can they become meeting places where people from diverse groups and different backgrounds have the possibility to meet each other?”. And no doubt we must also ask further questions: does the interior designer nowadays have a role, as said Elena Dellapiana, “expanded and liquefied”? And why the interiors project is “perceived as a mere sum of professional skills and not as a whole which reflects cultures and aspirations of its own times”? … and still others.
Both educational programs and research projects should speculate about their approach. Actually, I think this is a hope and a clear invitation for Inner Magazine. I am convinced that rethinking and debating at the international level on this is essential and extremely useful, and I really thank all the contributors.