Interiors is back at the RCA, but where does it fit best?

A huge cheer will have gone up in the interiors community at the news that the Royal College of Art is reintroducing the subject to its prospectus (DW News, 30 July).

The decision in 2005 by Professor Nigel Coates to change the name of his RCA fiefdom to the School of Architecture, obliterating formal mention of interiors, prompted angry calls for interiors folk, notably from RCA alumni, who include Ben Kelly, David Bentheim and Julian Powell Tuck. Trouble was still brewing 18 months later and a letter was reportedly sent to outgoing rector Professor Sir Christopher Frayling urging a reinstatement of the discipline (DW 21 February 2007).

But now, it is back – or will be, once a home for the interiors department has been agreed. The architecture school is a clear possibility, though Frayling points out that there are strong links between interiors in the broadest sense and, say, textiles or product and furniture design.

Wherever it lands though, the tone of the department will be interesting, determined perhaps by the person brought in to lead it. Commercial interiors have changed hugely since most of the interiors lobbyists were at the RCA. Talk now is more of ‘branded environments’ or ‘retail’, while museum and galley spaces arguably rely as much on interactive installations for their popularity as on their spatial qualities. Ironically, some of the best of these are now created by architects like Softroom, Jonathan Clarke and Land Design Studio’s Peter Higgins, who have crossed professional boundaries.

Meanwhile, the divide between commercial and domestic interiors has widened. Chelsea Harbour’s ‘decorators’ are a far cry from designers in the commercial camp, yet the RCA might expect to encompass both.

We have courted the views of key interiors players on the issue (see Voxpop). But we’d welcome your opinions too, particularly as for once we’re not faced with a fait accompli. E-mail me at to let me know what you think.

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