The Handbook of Interior Design
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The Handbook of Interior Design

Jo Ann Asher Thompson, Nancy Blossom, Jo Ann Asher Thompson, Nancy Blossom

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eBook - ePub

The Handbook of Interior Design

Jo Ann Asher Thompson, Nancy Blossom, Jo Ann Asher Thompson, Nancy Blossom

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The Handbook of Interior Design offers a compilation of current works that inform the discipline of interior design. These examples of design scholarship present a detailed overview of current research and critical thinking. The volume brings together a broad range of essays from an international group of scholars who represent the diversity of work in the field.

Intended to engage those involved in the study and practice of interior design, the Handbook considers the connections between theory, research, and practice that shape the field of interior design, as well as the theoretical perspectives that inform the field. It contains over thirty essays which together demonstrate the wide range of opinions and knowledge in the discipline, grouped in sections to reflect key components of their content. A close reading of the essays will uncover contradictory as well as supporting positions on aspects of interior design, challenging the reader to think critically and develop a personal stance toward the subject.

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Section II
Perspectives on the Practice of Interior Design

Aesthetic Coding in Interior Design

Mads Nygaard Folkmann
How do places affect the way they are perceived? Of course, everybody has a singular and unique way of perceiving and experiencing places. On the other hand, experiences are never coincidental in the sense that each individual entirely and arbitrarily determines how experiences turn out; the place frames experience and provides a structure for it to develop within. In this sense, each time we per­ceive and experience places, or practically anything, we actualize the dialectics of subject and object. Thus, it is exactly at the intersection of subjective perception and objective matter that cognition and meaning evolve and come into being for the individual.
When discussing the experience of places in regard to interior design, it may be worthwhile to focus on the side of the object, that is, how design can contribute to the constitution of places and thus, ultimately, to the promotion of certain kinds of experiences of places. Thus, using interior design devices means seeking to shape the conditions of experience. The aim of this essay is to demonstrate and discuss how strategies of interior design contribute to an interior as a place.
The essay has two main sections. The first discusses theoretical matters of experience, understanding, and aesthetic coding in design. Further, this platform is discussed in terms of interior design and the practice of designing interiors by asking how means of interior design can be used to encode, transform, and organize structures of meaning in a way that creates localized places. Consequently, the second section of the essay focuses on an analysis of three exemplary cases of interior designs (all of Danish provenance) that discuss central concepts and demonstrate the defining of places through processes of creating meaning by means of interior design. The cases are Verner Panton's Visiona II (1970), Louise Campbell's front office for the Danish Ministry of Culture (2006), and the Tietgen Dormitory in Copenhagen (2008).

Theoretical Outline: Ambience and Understanding

Seen in the context of experience, it is interesting to examine not only how we experience the interior, but also how design creates and stages experience. Thus, the point is both to illustrate how design is perceived, is experienced, and is decoded and to investigate how design creates and encodes in the phase of designing.
Entrance into a discussion of experience is provided by a look at the theoretical construct of phenomenology, which focuses on the conditions of experience. The term “phenomenology” refers to the theory, logos, of that which shows itself, phainomenon. In comparison to epistemology, phenomenology focuses not only on how we know, but also on what is experienced. Essentially based on a dichotomy of subject and object, phenomenology addresses phenomena as they appear to the human subject.
According to the early 20th-century German philosopher Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, our way to phenomena goes through our experience of them. However, in his search for the being of phenomena (the world of objects) he is led back to investigate the formation of the structures in consciousness that provide the conditions for meaning to come into being. Thus, consciousness always directs itself towards something, and thus the appearance of this something is determined. In this sense, what is of interest is not so much the specific objects, but rather their way of appearing in relation to consciousness. In the later phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, however, the actual world of objects gains in importance, because the emphasis is on the interdependence of the experiencing subject and the experienced world (Merleau-Ponty 1964).
What is interesting about interior design in this connection is that – with its many means of defining surroundings and spaces and their surfaces, textures, and colors – it is an important tool for designating the specific ways that the world of objects appears. Observing and sensing the modern world through its tactile and visual surfaces, we can note how these affect and structure our experience in particular ways; there are huge differences between, for example, experiencing the world through the formal structures of functionalistic design or through Verner Panton's experimental, psychedelic room-scapes as in Visiona II.
In like manner, in the book What Things Do, the philosopher Peter-Paul Verbeek, with influence from Actor-Network Theory, investigates the “thinking from the perspective of things” in relation to subjects and labels it “post-phenomenological” (Verbeek 2005). His point is that humans act and perceive through artifacts, which thus have a fundamental mediating role. This brings the relation of subject and object beyond the traditional phenomenological focus on the conditions of experience in the subjects; the acknowledgment of the role of actual “things” shifts the focus to the objects and their role in conditioning experience: “Things…mediate how human beings are present in their world and how the world is present to them; they shape both subjectivity and objectivity” (Verbeek 2005).
While phenomenology sees this from the perspective of consciousness, the starting point for a post-phenomenological reflection is the being of things and the fact that things are entities with a presence in the world. Consequently, one aspect of post-phenomenological reflection is an attempt to deconstruct the dichotomy of subject and object in experience and thus not accept human subjectivity as the only origin of the structure of experience.
A phenomenology of design, from the perspective of post-phenomenological reflection, can be developed in an investigation of how design mediates the structures of experience. Thus, design can be seen as a “the creative act that consists in conceiving experiences to be lived by the help of forms” (Vial 2010). Accordingly, I believe that it is important to focus on the specific character of the designed objects and interiors – how they produce meaning and condition experience – and to use this reflection as a framework for understanding the interaction of human subjects and design.
A contribution to this kind of investigation can be found in the concept of aesthetic coding in design, as I have discussed elsewhere (Folkmann 2010). Thus, aesthetic coding in design can be seen to have two aspects with different implications. First, it is connected with the phenomenologically informed reflection of how designed interiors appeal to experience; that is, how interiors and objects can attract attention and relate to the sensory apparatus of perception. This unfolds in the concept of ambience as it is understood especially by the German philosopher Gernot Böhme. A similar understanding of ambience has also been acknowledged in relation to interior design by Jean Baudrillard (Baudrillard 1968). Second , the specificity of aesthetic coding relates to how design stages meaning in a more abstract-conceptual sense and relates to its “content” of meaning; that is, whether the design appears to be a transparent medium for its ideational content, or whether it points, auto-reflectively, to itself as a carrier of meaning. Accordingly, design can establish a specific relation between its physical manifestation and its idea, which may demand or even command a specific order of alignment or mode of understanding. Thus, this dimension of aesthetic coding has interpretive implications.
These two aspects – the kind of sensual appeal of design and its challenges to understanding – are particularly relevant in relation to interior design, as interior design has the capacity to create a totality in (the perception of) place; at best, interior design can evoke a high aesthetic effect of ambience, because it is capable of creating and encapsulating a highly calculated environment, while at the same time, in an extension of the sensual effects, building on and challenging the way we meet and understand our surroundings.

Evoking and Intensifying Ambience

It belongs to the field of common knowledge that places can have a specific atmosphere that we can sense as soon as we enter; we often perceive ambience on a level preceding conscious recognition. This effect of ambience is both fleeting, as it is hard to grasp, and powerful, as it determines our experience of the place, the mood we are put in and thus our further engagement with the place – and possibly also the way we meet and engage with the people in it.
On this point, Böhme's philosophical-phenomenological concept...

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