Call for papers

Over the course of the twentieth century, interior design emerged as an autonomous design discipline all over the world. Though strongly depending on local contexts, the discipline’s process toward professionalization is characterized by specific developments: the founding of local and national professional associations; the monitoring of standards and codes of conduct; the organization of cultural and economic events like fairs, exhibitions and biennials; the legal protection and gatekeeping of the profession; and finally, the emergence of accredited educational programs, often in existing institutes. Regardless, interior design has retained an aura of amateurism, has struggled to convincingly privatize specific design knowledge, and is still widely associated with decoration and gendered practices. The multitude of designations (interior design/architecture) further points to the pervasive search for a delineated disciplinary identity. 

Processes of professionalization have proven to constitute a useful lens in historicizing design disciplines (Lees-Maffei, 2008). This conference looks at education specifically, as we understand educational practices in interior design to be important sites both for the production of knowledge on (designing) interior spaces, and for negotiating the content and status of the discipline. While recent scholarship has widely recognized histories of architectural education as fruitful representations for disciplinary developments and understandings (Ockman, 2012; Couchez & Heyninckx, 2022; Colomina et al., 2022), interior design programs are yet to be researched in their own right. The dialectic relationship with surrounding disciplines plays a major role. On the one hand, because programs dedicated to interior spaces are ontologically indebted to architectural practice, they are often placed in a supplemental position (Havenhand, 2004). On the other, the discipline’s history is complicated by its roots in homemaking and could diversify academic discourse that has taken an interest in popular domestic advice for its cultural significance and economic impact. 

This conference invites contributions that address the education of the interior designer throughout the twentieth century. Papers are encouraged to discuss educational practices specific to the discipline and to reflect on their impact on and contribution to contemporaneous practice, discourse, authorship, and design knowledge. We aim for a wide variety of teaching practices, and welcome perspectives from all over the world. Papers can focus on one or more of the following subtopics: 


A closer look at the institutional history of interior design within a certain country or region, or even a singular faculty or school, is often informative to assess the disciplinary status or identity attributed to the design discipline. Papers are invited to employ archival sources produced by schools (such as course schedules, meeting reports, letters, funding applications etc.) to situate the position attributed to the interior design program within the constellation of existing courses and curricula. Organizational developments can expose associations with (or rejections of) neighboring disciplines and unearth the value systems influencing the structuring of specialized design knowledge. Papers are therefore invited to reflect on the mechanisms and politics informing the composition of knowledge fields, their material repercussions in buildings and classrooms, and the role played by different stakeholders such as ministries of education, cultural organizations, industries, or professional groups lobbying for or against legal protection of the discipline. 


Research into the history of education often emphasizes the inaccessibility of the classroom of the past. (Grosvenor et al., 1999) Papers are invited to expose a process of knowledge production and dissemination by granting access into a design studio or lecture series of the past. Contributions can reflect on the material aspects of schooling, and either engage with different media produced within the context of a specific pedagogical undertaking, such as sketches, plans or models, or more broadly address school initiatives such as exhibitions or seminars. We also encourage approaches that take up intangible factors influencing the transfer of design knowledge, such as the social climate of design faculties, teacher-student relationships, and the potential of oral history in researching this. Papers are particularly invited to contextualize the knowledge produced within interior design courses and discuss its specificity by showing how it challenges other fields’ understanding of spaces, users, or design methods. 


Individual interior designers are prone to canonization both in academic research, and in lifestyle literature targeting a public of consumers. Often, these discourses prioritize the visual aspects of a body of work, focus on the commercial success of mass-produced furniture pieces, or sustain a heroic depiction of a sole (and male) author; in many cases, the teaching practices of the designers are hardly addressed. We invite papers that challenge existing monographic narratives through an educational outlook. Contributions are invited to question notions of authorship, for example by foregrounding diverse actors that have been obscured over time but were nevertheless crucial to the operation of pedagogic ecologies, be it students, supporting teaching staff, or other school personnel.

Please send your submission (400-word abstract and 200-word biography) by February 1st 2023 to