As the professional world becomes increasingly connected and interdisciplinary and as more colleges and universities align these academic majors, the topic has seen renewed interest.
A recent series of faculty exchanges labeled “Inside/Out — Architecture and Interior Design Curricula” endorsed by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).And the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC), as well as recent efforts from an ACSA subcommittee to rethink accreditation standards, suggest that this disciplinary relationship remains, to some extent, in flux, and that we should continue to look to define a working relationship that will support the disciplinary distinction of both groups as well as their inherent connection. I suggest herein such a possible definition of how these disciplines might intersect, and — by extension — how a re conceived and more broadly defined profession might better engage the array of allied design disciplines in academic and professional settings.
Architects continue to argue that the design of interior space falls under their jurisdiction; that the architect is qualified by education and experience to design the interior; and that they’ve always had this responsibility. So this doesn’t need to change. But things have changed. Increased complexity in the design of interior environments has demanded a more focused expertise and skill set related to sustainable interior materials, ergonomics, design for multiple populations, ADA compliance, workplace design, facilities management, interior lighting and other aspects of the built environment focused at the interior scale. This is clearly evidenced by the growth of the separate, parallel career track in interior design. Architectural education, given its inherent breadth, has failed to provide the focused experience at the interior scale needed to support an evolving and high level interior design practice. Thus, many talented college-bound students have chosen to pursue an interior design education more directly aligned with their passions and interests, even if this might ultimately place them at a disadvantage in the professional and licensing arenas.
On the heels of the Inside-Out conferences, it is time for the architecture and interior design establishment to make this a priority. It is time to give serious attention to the idea of an expanded and inclusive educational model more closely aligned with the medical profession, a model that allows for both shared and distinct knowledge reflective of contemporary practice. Many of the best academic programs in the country are asking for it. In the end, a more inclusive, diverse and unified profession is a win for all involved. One can only imagine how such a re-envisioned profession might impact our collective potential and influence in the world