Some thoughts

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A journey through the Interior

What is interiority?

From the Elizabethan Courtier palaces to Modernist ideals of collective living , the Fordist production line to Jacque Tati’s visions of the office space, we find that the notions of the interior or the room can often be opposing or relatively different to each other.

We can observe that the development of the interior, from the medieval hall to the modern day open plan apartments, has moved towards the pursuit of privacy and physical comfort.

Palaces for instance were always designed to provide the ultimate sense of comfort through carefully arranged interiors and rooms of decadence and wealth.

The Georgian terrace house, despite being bland and homogenous on the exterior was decorated individually with much personal taste. The interior in a sense has always been our context as individuals – how we live in them, how we work in them and generally, how that all comes together to function as an interior.

In 1919, the German architecture critic Adolf Behne described comfort and opulence as degenerate because of its associations with the nineteenth century bourgeoisie.

Austerity as an idea came to represent a sharpening of the sense, both in a physical and ethical sense. This position inevitably dominated architectural thinking for the next 60 years.

In his essay, The Principle of Cladding Adolf Loos stated that the architect’s general task is to provide warm and livable spaces. A room must look cozy, a house comfortable to live in.

Le Corbusier’s Unite d’habitation contained 337 duplex apartment modules to house a total of 1600 individuals. They were fitted together like pieces of a Chinese puzzle, with a corridor slotted through the space between the two apartments in each module. Within this modular framework of spaces, each unit was to be individualized with colours and a range of furniture.

Every third floor, there was a wide corridor, like an interior street, which ran the length of the building from one end to the other. It housed restaurants, shops and other forms of entertainment to be enjoyed collectively.

In a way, the invention of the corridor created much more privacy within rooms, often ever only used by their occupants or their invited guests. Like Unite d’habitation, the life exists within the realms of the private and the collective shared facilities available.

The enfilade for instance does not have that notion of separation. Rooms are connected to one another, forming suites that navigate its users through the building. The notion of privacy is then expressed through the intimacy of the visitor to the host, and their progression from the most public rooms to the most private.

To expand on this notion of privacy to the office space, Jacque Tati’s visions in Playtime show individual cubicles that exemplify ideas of privacy and solitude that is not far off from the modernist office spaces of the corporate world. In contrast, we have developed more contemporary notions of the office space to the more open place, collective work environments such as Google or Facebook’s offices that promote individual workflow and freedom.

This brings me to the question.

How different is the 18th century construct of the interior to the contemporary conditions we face today?

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