09:00 – 09:20

09:20 – 09:30

09:30 – 11:30



By Els De Vos (UAntwerpen) and Fredie Floré (KU Leuven)


Chaired by Vlad Ionescu (UHasselt) and Els De Vos (UAntwerpen)

Carlos Bartolo (Lusíada University, Portugal)

In Portugal, the teaching of design occurred very late. Only at the end of the 1960s did the first specialized course appear, and it was not until 1974 that the first design courses opened in the state of Fine Arts Schools.

Until then, the practice – from the graphic arts to product or interior design – was carried out by anyone: graduates of Fine Arts (Painting or Sculpture); architects; students of artistic or industrial design schools (medium-level courses in the English tradition from the late 19th century); or, to tell the truth, whichever person that happens to have an artistic aptitude and a better, or worse, taste.

Interior Design did not exist as a conscious discipline. Instead, some architects carried it out as an extension of their architectural projects. Other “artists” practised it as a side job from set design; as employees of furniture shops that supplied a more affluent clientele; or simply as a hobby by aesthetic dilettantes.

It was during the first decades of Estado Novo (New State, the autocratic regime that ruled in Portugal between 1932 and 1974) that, associated with the State’s cultural and aesthetic indoctrination policies, the discipline began to be given value. This occurrence can be read in three cases:

  • Through the progressive identification and praise of the authorship of the different outputs produced by the state, namely those carried out by the Secretariat of National Propaganda (SPN, the official organ that would govern the aesthetic renewal and national identity of the country), which maintained an informal team of collaborators “artist-decorators”, as they were called;
  • By raising awareness of what this practice would be as a professional discipline through articles published in Panorama (the SPN’s official magazine), namely in the series of articles entitled Campanha do Bom Gosto (Good Taste Campaign), teaching readers about the need to use the services of professionals.
  • Finally, through an education of the population on what would be good decoration practices, either through the articles of the campaign mentioned above or through adult education books that, in a paternalistic way, taught what the arrangement of a “good home” should be.

The importance of these facts lies in the progressive awareness of the discipline that would take place – in a country that was industrially backward and has long been an importer of taste – leading from an informal practice to its recognition and, later, to its establishment through schooling.

Catriona Quinn (University of New South Wales, Australia)

Despite its emergence as an autonomous discipline in the 1950s, Australian interior design, including the history of its educational institutions, remains an understudied field tangential to architecture. Interior designers’ occupational status throughout the twentieth century was impacted by the “technical difficulty” of association with trade-based education, in contrast to architecture, which enjoyed comparative academic prestige. Using previously unstudied archives and oral history interviews, this paper interrogates revealing links between technical education’s relationship to the dynamic development of the interior design profession and the Australian sociopolitical landscape in the two decades after World War II.

University degrees in interior design began in Australia the 1980s, supplementing fifty years of well-established courses run by state technical colleges – trade schools for builders, plumbers and mechanics – which thrived during the postwar economic boom of the 1950s and continue to train designers today. While architecture transitioned from the same technical colleges to universities in 1919, interior design’s ongoing correlation with technical education appears to have depleted its own historiography; tainted as amateur, feminine and domestic, or devalued by association with commerce and trade. Consequently, the documentation of interior design curriculum, instructional methods, production of knowledge, relationship to the occupation’s peak bodies and impact on Australia’s built environment, has received scant attention from the academy. What new knowledge about training and practice can be found by a re-evaluative approach to interior design technical education?

My research aims to address this in a novel interpretation of the discipline’s beginnings, through a close reading of archival records from the Interior Design Diploma at East Sydney Technical College in the 1940s and 1950s. Drawing on a rare student folio from 1947, this paper offers an inside view of the college’s pedagogies which adapted progressive colour theories and Bauhaus models of course structure. The development of these concurrent with the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme (1942-52), a significant political and economic agenda which saw an influx of returned servicemen to the college, complicates conventional views of Australia’s postwar cultural sector as fundamentally conservative.  This paper speculates on the potential for a more complex understanding of technical education’s relationship to government investment in design, male participation in a gendered occupation and modern design theories’ unexpected reach into decorative practices routinely overlooked by conventional histories.

Benoît Vandevoort (KU Leuven, Belgium)

Ever since the Second World War, specialized interior designers have been graduating from higher institutes all over Belgium, ending up on an increasingly pluralist job market. A history of their training courses testifies to the changing content of the occupation.  Lacking a disciplinary canon or benchmark, they continuously exchanged with disciplines like industrial design, visuals arts, and—especially—architecture. Regardless of this strong disciplinary affinity, interior designers are not well-represented in historical overviews of architecture in Belgium, which tend to reproduce stories of single authorship, conveniently leaving out rivaling professions.

This presentation will shed a more detailed light on the dialectic relationship between architecture and interior design in 1990s Flanders. To do so, it will compare two separate developments, both happening under the influence of Belgium’s transition into a federal state. The first is an internal split in the collection of interior design programs. As of 1993, all programs were renamed according to the different professional ambitions held by their respective faculties. Some schools trained interieurarchitecten (or interior architects) whereas others preferred to train interieurvormgevers (or interior designers), a subdivision that still exists today.

To assess the impact of this subdivision on the dialectic disciplinary relationship with architecture, this paper will invoke a second, specific kind of professional architectural discourse, as the 1990s in Flanders saw the gradual construction of a sustained ‘architecture culture’. This phenomenon is materialized in a series of publications and exhibitions, with the aim of showcasing the region’s newfound architectural awareness, as well as stimulating public commissionship and creating an overall fertile climate for young and ambitious designers.

Because both phenomena seem to have little connection, their combination unearths some interesting contradictions. To discuss these, this paper will (1) briefly elaborate on the value of professionalization as a research lens, and on the ambiguous representation of professionalism in architecture. Secondly, (2) it will depict the 1993 split in interior programs within the changing nature of architectural knowledge, to (3) finally revisit some of the determining preconditions that informed the emergence of an architecture culture in Flanders. Ultimately, it will show how educational programs can adequately account for the structures of distinction and dominance that are historically configured and continue to influence our understanding of architecture production in the past.

Michela Bassanelli & Jacopo Leveratto (Politecnico di Milano, Italy)

This essay aims to trace the main stages of the birth, diffusion, and contemporary evolution of teaching courses referring to the discipline in Italy called Interior Architecture. This matching is not accidental; on the contrary, it is based on a significant theoretical-critical framework that dominates the disciplinary definition and positioning process. In Italy, the two terms of Interior Architecture and Interior Design show a conceptual distinctness: the first refers to space-based design. In contrast, the second relates to the object system or Industrial Design. The history that the paper attempts to outline is that of a discipline which, despite being characterised by a specific set of tools and an entirely original philosophy of action, has never been and has no intention of becoming autonomous but which is an integral part of the architecture, seen, for ease of analysis, from within.

The association between the two words “architecture” and “interiors” was initially established thanks to the role of a number of magazines such as Architettura e arti decorative (1921), La Casa bella and Domus (1928), which introduced specific columns and views on the subject. It was only in 1936 that the term became formalised as a real disciplinary framework, with the first national competition for the assignment of the Chair of Interior Architecture, Furnishings and Decoration. This academic discipline perfectly described the cultural attitude of a generation of masters of “interiors”, such as Gio Ponti, Carlo Mollino, and Franco Albini, who always considered themselves all-round architects and which provided the foundation for the attempts by Bruno Zevi, Giulio Carlo Argan, and Carlo De Carli to focus on the genetic process involving all design scales. A second milestone took place in the 1980s when another generation of scholars – Filippo Alison, Adriano Cornoldi and Gianni Ottolini – reformulated teaching characters, under the name of Interior Architecture and Exhibition Design, to consolidate its theoretical premises and move towards applied research and a new idea of professional practice.

Starting from these premises the paper will examine its role in the Italian academic curricula and describe the continuity of a cultural position which, also today, invariably shows clearly distinct operative features. All referring to the idea not of defining spaces, but of transforming them into inhabitable places.

11:30 – 12:00

12:00 – 13:00



John Potvin (Concordia University, Canada)

13:00 – 14:00

14:00 – 16:00



Chaired by Fredie Floré (KU Leuven) and Inge Somers (UAntwerpen)

Olivier Vallerand, Virginie Lasalle & Jean Therrien (Université de Montréal, Canada)

Université de Montréal’s interior design program evolved from an undergraduate certificate housed within the School of Architecture, created in 1986, to a baccalaureate within the School of Industrial Design, in 1998, joined in 2018 by a postgraduate D.E.S.S. certificate. The relatively short history of the program – housed within a Faculty of Environmental Design founded in 1968 and a School created in 1978 – and disciplinary shift echo the in-betweenness and ambiguous qualities of the interior design discipline. Building on interviews and archival documents related to the founding and evolution of the program, this paper explores how the specific context of Université de Montréal produces productive ambiguities that allow its graduates to critically position themselves and their practices within a North American and global context.

The movement between architecture and industrial design that marked the establishment of the program is symptomatic of the uncertainties and tensions between disciplines that have shaped interior design as a discipline. Assumptions about the design focus of each discipline – objects, spaces, forms, surfaces… – frame the relationship between programs within the Faculty, but also within professional practices. Highlighting the importance of university-level professional education, these professional relationships have evolved since the founding of the program, with many Montreal architecture firms now hiring interior design graduates.

There are still, however, legal and cultural challenges tied to the name of the discipline, made even more visible in this case because of the bilingual context of Montreal. Recent debates in North America around the appropriateness of using “interior design” or “interior architecture” have highlighted the still topical discussions around the definitions of the discipline. In Québec, strict legal restrictions around the use of “architect” conflict with the widespread use of “architecte d’intérieur” in European francophone contexts. Beyond this, the different professional traditions and certifications linked to French-speaking and English-speaking countries impact pedagogical and curriculum decisions, freeing up the program to position itself as a direct, but critical, response to Québec professional needs.

Finally, the program is also the only francophone university-based interior design programs in North America, surrounded by eight francophone college-level technical programs. This has also impacted the evolution of the program, with educators being asked early on to clearly position how the degrees granted would differ from existing degrees, but also opening opportunities for collaborations between technical institutions and university. The pool of graduates from the program is today calling for a full graduate degree to further push forward thinking about the discipline and the challenges and issues discussed here.

Mary Anne Beecher (Ohio State University, United States)

This paper is based on archival materials that document the formation of what is now the Department of Design at Ohio State, including interviews with Charles Wallschlaeger. It interprets how the professional study of interior design evolved from a multi-faceted industrial design program in the 1960s and 1970s. Beginning in 1962, professors interested in design at The Ohio State University (USA) developed formal studies in “Product Design,” “Space and Enclosure,” and “Visual Communication Design” while part of the School of Art. The Space and Enclosure area claimed at the time to address the design of “large scale working and living environments for man, with an emphasis on interior habitation.”

In 1968, program leaders Don Woods and Charles developed their own foundational courses and a curriculum that they based on the study of design at Carnegie Mellon University while also echoing Germany’s Ulm School’s interest in social concerns. Wallschlaeger, once a designer at Herman Miller, articulated the philosophical and ideological stance of the new Division of Design in a written rationale that the university used to substantiate the discipline. This synthesis of the writings of Bruce Archer, Morris Asimow, Horst Rittel, and Norman Potter supported three “areas of endeavor” (specializations) that extended the practices of the industrial design field to also include visual communication and space and enclosure design. The latter focused on the planning and development of “manufactured enclosure products and systems.” By viewing the interior as a modular or prefabricated “product,” its design relied on knowledge of the interrelationship of human activities and the environmental aspects of constructed volume-defining systems using research methods that are very similar to the approach used by product designers.

Casting interior design as a sub-field of industrial design may be related to the emergence of environmental design as a design approach that took root in earnest in certain North American universities in the early 1970s. By blending interests in design across scales, media, and production processes, environmental designers focused on questions that integrated the design of space with an understanding of products and communication systems such as signage that enhanced their usability. Prioritizing the impact of designed environments, products, and systems on their occupants, users or stakeholders distinguished this design approach from those that emphasized aesthetics or physical, economic, or other practical constraints that characterized typical interior design programs in North America at the time.

Sam Vanhee (University of Antwerp, Belgium)

La Cambre, a renowned visual arts and architecture school founded by Henry van de Velde in Brussels in 1926, was praised inter alia for its architecture programme. Its interior architecture programme, however, has enjoyed much less historiographical attention. In the catalogue of the exhibition on the occasion of La Cambre’s fiftieth anniversary, for example, the programme is mentioned only once and not even discussed (Delevoy, Culot & Van Loo, 1979). Nevertheless, it has been used as a model by other schools, such as the École Supérieure des Arts Plastiques et Visuals de l’État (E.S.A.P.V.E.) in Mons, where some even call the interior architecture programme “a copy of La Cambre’s.”

This research has a double objective. On the one hand, it demonstrates how the history of two interior architecture programmes can uncover a broader, heterogene educational network: to what extent was the programme in Mons – originated from the Royal Academy – a copy of La Cambre’s – an institute sharing the same roots as the Bauhaus? And how does that illustrate the relationship between the two schools? On the other hand, it aims to map the educational histories of interior architecture as a discipline, and by so doing, provide a historiographical correction. 

To achieve this, first, a brief history of each programme is constructed, based on archival documentation and oral histories in the form of retrospective in-depth interviews with former teachers and students. Then, the relationship between the two schools is conceptualised: What might  the kinship between the two schools consist of? What impact can such a relation have on a school? And what does that mean for the identity of the interior architecture programme at the Royal Academy in Mons in specific?

Lucinda Kaukas Havenhand (University of North Carolina, United States)

Ever since I entered academia nearly thirty years ago, as a teacher and later as an administrator, I have been fascinated by the words we use to describe, defend, and delimit the field of designing interiors – in the nuanced but deemed important differences between interior design, interior decoration, and interior architecture – in the descriptions of our programs, our courses, our goals, and our results. In this paper, I will explore and analyze the words that have shaped the interiors program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, particularly in its journey from “a few classes in interior decoration as part of a Women’s College” to a major in Housing and Interior Design to its current iteration as a department of Interior Architecture.

Using archival materials from UNCG, in-person reports, and anecdotal observations of faculty and students, this paper will consider the palimpsest of words created to justify, legitimize, promote, and transform this program over the past twenty years and evaluate the substance of those changes. It examines what did or did not happen in its journey from decoration to architecture and the correspondence between the words that represented it and the realities behind them. It considers how specific words were used to shape arguments and legitimizations and evaluate their impact; is the program better, stronger, more rigorous, more beneficial, or more diverse by being interior architecture? Is it divisive or inclusive? Did those words obscure or reveal? Confuse or clarify? Are they gendered? These are the questions that will be considered in this close reading of the documents that shaped and justified these changes and the power of the words that constructed them.

16:00 – 16:30

16:30 – 17:30



Chaired by Caroline Voet (KU Leuven)

Gioconda Cafiero (University of Naples "Federico II", Italy)

The notoriety of Filippo Alison’s activity (1930-2015) in the field of architecture and interior and furniture design through the important experience of the “I Maestri” collection for Cassina does not correspond to an adequate critical systematization of the important contribution to the teaching of interior architecture, in the University of Naples, but also at a national level, thanks to its activity in coordinating national researches, to his work within the PhD course at the Milan Polytechnic, from which working tables and conferences have emerged, connoting the specific approach of the Italian school in interior architecture and its theoretical statute over time.

His well-known research into re-editions also led to a revision of the functionalist programme, participating in the reflection that characterized Italian architectural thought in the second half of the twentieth century about the relationship between history and design, between pre-existing structures, persistence of values and transformation, bringing it also in the field of interiors. Furthermore, a characteristic of his teaching activity was the tension to build a circularity between teaching and production, making students participate through the laboratories in the study and design processes of the re-editions of paradigmatic objects as a tool for the knowledge of history, but also of the production processes

Alison’s theoretical contribution, both in teaching as well as in the design activity, resorts to a conceptual filter to define the scope of the interiors: not using objective grids to define the design practice according to where and how much and how it takes place, Interior architecture is not limited to the definition of the terminal aspects of architecture, but it tackles the radical nature of space, understanding architecture as a unitary chain in which interior and exterior converge. This is evident after the lesson received from modern culture which defines the spatial layout as the main factor characterizing architecture, in which the details underline its identity, making it available for living. By investigating the nature of spaces in depth, interior architecture creates and verifies the sense of a building in them.

What characterizes it is the extent and depth of a look that links the design of spaces and equipment to the interpretation of primary and cultural needs and to the gestures of the inhabitants. The space of architecture becomes habitable by virtue of continuously connecting the determination of forms to the phenomena that arise from the interaction with people, whose understanding assumes a leading role in the specific discipline of Interior Architecture. This phenomenological approach to design is the basis of Alison’s teaching methodology, strongly maieutic, which does not use a priori formal matrices and which places man at the centre. On the basis of these principles Alison has always cultivated the idea of the importance of interdisciplinary comparison and the weight of humanistic studies, widely present in the didactic project of the bachelor and master’s degree courses, which he designed at the University of Naples, which reflects the need to connect the design of spaces to experience, the shape of things to human needs on the one hand and the materiality of the building on the other, confirming the founding role of Interiors in Architecture.

Deniz Hasirci (Izmir University of Economics, Türkiye), Melis Örnekoğlu-Selçuk (Ghent University, Belgium), Zeynep Tuna Ultav (Yaşar University, Türkiye) & Deniz Avci-Hosanli (Izmir University of Economics, Türkiye)

There is great value in studying women in design history, not only because they have often not been able to receive credit for their work, but also because although they have contributed to processes and fundamental structures of design, which may have gone unnoticed as it did not result in a concrete product, like a building or industrial design creation. However, their efforts were part of the context or environment in which history was written.

One such character is interior architect Nilgün Çarkacı, who has taken key steps for the advancement of the necessary environment for the development of modern interior architecture. Her contributions to the evolution of interior architecture in Turkey can be categorized under three headings; educational, professional, and institutional. Having given 30+ years of her life to teaching, she concentrated on the detail and the connection to professionalization. Although her own education and approach to design favored an element of the aesthetic, in her teaching, she stressed the significance of application. This is a natural extension of her experience in the interior architecture profession. Having kept her professional designs continuous, Çarkacı has worked on projects of different scales, from the Hilton Hotel, where she worked with SOM, to smaller scale interiors. The last category is the institutionalization of the interior architecture profession both nationally and internationally. Çarkacı’s role in defining and defending the profession of interior architecture under UCTEA (Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, est. 1954) and CIAT (Chamber of Interior Architects in Turkey, est. 1976), involves her role as second chair and expanding the chamber into a physical space rather than an inefficient and unresponsive entity. Moreover, the first connection to IFI (International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers) has been done by her singular efforts which have not been documented, leading today to various Turkish relations with IFI and the current head of IFI being a Turkish interior architect. Çarkacı’s active existence in professional realms of interior architecture undoubtedly impacted on her role as an educator.

Çarkacı is a graduate of the Department of Furniture and Interior Architecture in the State Applied Fine Arts School (1975). The school was established in the 1956-57 academic year modeling the Bauhaus structure and employing several German and Austrian professors, as well as providing a base for a multifaceted vision in her approach to design. Her style in fixed and mobile furniture encompasses this approach, as she sees furniture as an integral and human-focused part of the interior, supporting the functions to be undertaken within it. In one of her lectures, she redefines the interior, connecting it to the interior of a human being, and widening from that point of emergence.

The method utilized in this paper includes a combination of archival and literature surveys, but largely based on the oral history method. Through interviews with Çarkacı herself, family members, students, and professional collaborators according to the tripartite structure mentioned above, the aim is to make a contribution to interior architecture history in Turkey, with a focus on a woman interior architect as well as one who has laid particular foundations on which many have traveled on without knowing its actual story. The goal of this detailed analysis is to shed light on the past and strengthen the foundations, and enable clear and knowledge-based steps.

17:30 – 19:00




Conference dinner at Brasserie HA’.