Architect, Interior Designer Call for Collaboration: Why It Matters

Event: Architecture Inside/Out Symposium
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.27.07
Speakers: (Panel 1) Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP — 2007 AIANY President & Principal, Perkins + Will; Rocco Giannetti, AIA — Principal & Interior Project Manager, Gensler; Kitty Hawks — Interior Designer; Peter Schubert, AIA — Principal, RMJM Hillier; (Panel 2) Calvin Tsao, FAIA — Co-Founder, Tsao & McKown Architects; Charles Renfro, AIA — Principal, Diller Scofidio + Renfro; S. Russell Groves — Principal, S. Russell Groves; Goil Amornvivat — Co-Founder, TuG Studio
Moderator: Susan Szenasy — Editor-in-Chief, Metropolis
Organizer: AIANY; AIANY Interiors Committee; Center for Architecture Foundation
Sponsors: Underwriter AFD Contract Furniture; Patron Certified of New York; Lead Sponsor Zumtobel Lighting; Sponsors BBG-BBGM, depp Glass, Spartech Coporation, STUDIOS architecture; Supporters Jack L. Gordon Architects, Perkins + Will; Friends Enterprise Lighting Sales, Gensler, InterfaceFLOR, Knoll, Mancini Duffy, Steelcase, Stephan Jaklitsch Architects, The City Bakery

Architecture Inside/Out

Courtesy AIANY

Peter Schubert, AIA, principal at RMJM Hillier, paraphrased a Mercedes Benz slogan popular about a decade ago — “It doesn’t work unless it’s beautiful and it isn’t beautiful unless it works.”

Perceptions of interiors vary across the design field. An architect in NY State may practice both architecture and interior design. And some firms take on both with a can-do-across-the-board attitude. Others feel they can’t be everything to all clients, and prefer to partner with interior design firms. Some clients typecast practitioners as architects or designers (but not both), whereas others see their architects as shamans and look to them alone for guidance.

“Collaboration” is the current buzzword. Panelist Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP, 2007 AIANY president and partner at Perkins + Will — an architect and interior designer — believes that interiors professionals need to be brought into the design process earlier. She reminded the audience that the Fall Issue of OCULUS is dedicated to collaboration. People do not understand what commercial design is, she continued. It’s heating, cooling, data wiring, interlocking systems on a large scale — and that requires a unique skill set. Interior designers work with hundreds of thousands of square feet, and the sooner they participate in a project, the more successful the project will be. For example, interior decorator Kitty Hawks spoke of a project where she was brought in so late that some fundamental planning issues were forgotten — such as working on a project that had “no place to hang your coat.”

Part of the naiveté about the interior design profession appears as early as design school. Often architects, interior designers, and interior decorators have a collective beginning, but then separate into their respective fields. Schubert believes design schools should teach students to collaborate. The result of mutual respect established early in designers’ careers would be a more integrated profession.