At the intersection of architecture, conservation and design, RISD’s Interior Architecture department takes an innovative approach to the reuse and transformation of existing buildings. Advanced design studios focused on adaptive reuse are central to both the undergraduate and graduate programs. And unlike the fields of interior design and decoration, interior architecture looks less at the application of surface materials than at understanding the design of buildings from the inside out.
In the studio, students use digital and manual means to research and recommend design alterations and renovations that give existing buildings new life. Studios focus on a wide range of approaches, from domestic to retail design to theater/production design to issues of preservation and conservation.
Image: Heekyung Kim, Space for Water, MDes 2014
“Students in our department are engaged in a rich and expansive discipline focusing on the reuse and transformation of existing structures,” says Department Head Liliane Wong. “Through a wide breadth of design in the built environment, this exploration includes interior interventions, architectural addition and refurbishment, installation, exhibit design, urban transformations and community engagement – using adaptive reuse as the primary tool.”
Image: Yiling Chu, MDes 2014
“A building at the end of its lifespan faces three possibilities,” adds Graduate Program Director Markus Berger, “demolition, preservation or adaptive reuse. Our program has focused on adaptive reuse since 1947, when architect/designer Ernst Lichtblau (a student of Otto Wagner) assumed leadership of the department and essentially launched RISD’s Interior Architecture program.” The department has since become a leader in the field of adaptive reuse and interior studies and began publishing the internationally recognized Int|AR Journal on Interventions and Adaptive Reuse in 2009.
Image: Sun Young Kim, MDes 2014
Like the Interior Architecture department itself, Int/AR focuses on issues of preservation, transformation, alteration and interventions in the fields of architecture, interior studies and practice, but also in the realms of urban and landscape design. It also highlights their repercussions in the history and theory of architecture, urbanism, art and design.
Image: Ann Hurt, MDes 2013
RISD’s undergraduate program gives students the support curriculum they need while allowing them to specialize in adaptive reuse designs for the theater, exhibitions or retail environments. A deep, high-quality liberal arts program with concentrations (or minors) available in literary arts + studies, social sciences and history provides undergraduate students with a well-rounded BFA. Students learn practices and procedures in the building industry and beyond and are encouraged to grow into socially and environmentally responsible professionals.
Image: Thesis exhibit 2014
Graduate students in the program take their work to the next level. The culmination of each graduate student’s work in the department is his or her design thesis, an opportunity to synthesize accumulated knowledge on issues of design, reuse and preservation and to formulate and test a design hypothesis through a self-created design project. Students develop a proposal that describes their design intent, the nature of the proposed investigation, a design program and an existing project site through which their design intervention is executed.
Image: Thesis students 2014
RISD’s Interior Architecture alumni – like Alina Vadera 11 IA and Sui Park MDes 13 – go on to find creatively satisfying work around the world. Some launch their own practices designing residential and/or commercial interiors, while others join larger established firms or smaller studios. In addition to practicing as interior architects, alumni also go on to make a mark professionally as sustainability specialists, set designers, educators, home furnishings designers, fine artists and more.
For more information, visit edu/academics/interior-architecture/.