Concerns are being aired by senior interiors figures about the status of interior design at the Royal College of Art, as they initiate a campaign to change its standing against architecture.
It is believed that a letter is being circulated among eminent alumni of the RCA postgraduate course for architecture and interior design, calling for a greater dedication to interiors. The intention is that they sign the letter before it is sent on to RCA rector Professor Sir Christopher Frayling.
An early draft of the letter seen by Design Week conveys fears among alumni that the role of interiors is being substantially reduced or even dropped at the college. Frayling, who was not aware of the letter as DW went to press, denies that interior design has been cut from the course. However, he concedes it may have been downgraded – or may have been perceived to have been downgraded by the interiors community.
The course changed its name from Architecture and Interiors to Architecture 18 months ago, at the behest of course leader Nigel Coates. Frayling admits that this change may have had ‘a symbolic effect within the interiors community’, with interior design ‘downgraded maybe, axed no’.
However, the draft letter to Frayling remarks on a long-standing strain between the disciplines: ‘The tension between interior and architectural territories within the school has been present since the inception of the architecture course […] Perhaps this allows for an opportunity to establish a separate interiors course, free from the difficulties of this now-curtailed cohabitation,’ it says.
Students are still drawn from various backgrounds – including interior design – and the name change has not changed the composition of applicants, claims Frayling. Those who have studied architecture Part 1 at an undergraduate level are qualified with Part 2 on graduation; students from other backgrounds receive an MA. RCA interiors graduates include Ben Kelly, David Bentheim and Julian Powell Tuck.
ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIORS AT THE RCA
• Department of Interior Design established in 1951, with Hugh Casson as Professor; School of Architecture disbanded in 1953
• Course name changed to Environmental Design in 1972
• Teaching of architecture brought back into curriculum by Professor John Miller in 1975
• Architecture and Interior Design run as separate courses in 1985
• Dinah Casson takes over as course leader in 1993 and amalgamates both courses into Architecture and Interiors
• Nigel Coates appointed as Professor in 1995 and remains in post; course renamed Architecture in 2005