The Estonian Society of Interior Architects held the SISU 2014 international symposium in Tallinn on 11 – 14 June on the theme Interior Architecture – Dynamics of Theory and Practice, where recognised theoreticians and practicians in the field from Europe, Australia and Estonia met.

How do theoretical knowledge and practical project design function in interior architecture and what kind of new knowledge develops from practice-based research? As a fresh symposium for interior architects, SISU seeks new viewpoints and approaches for the creation of user-oriented, emotional and functional space. What are the typical and atypical trends in terms of contemporary spatial environments in a rapidly changing world here in Estonia and elsewhere in the world? We are accustomed to speak of traditions and local identity, even though these phenomena are becoming unified in today’s globalising world. Does a well-designed interior reflect the user’s identity or does the interior architect’s creation primarily manifest his own distinct style? Where do the limits of the interior architect’s working area begin and end in public and private space: where does architecture become interior space and vice versa?

The world renowned Ro Koster and Ad Kil, who have gained recognition through their Moses bridge project, gave a witty opening lecture on enlarging the positive footprint. ECIA[1] President Joke van Hengstum from Holland spoke about the education of the interior architect on the basis of the newly completed European Charter of Education.[2] ECIA’s mission is primarily the synchronisation and fostering of educational standards and knowledge within the field of interior architecture. Professor Suzie Attiwill from RMIT University in Melbourne expanded the concept of interiors and practical philosophy, encouraging practicians to consider the possibility of writing their doctoral dissertation based on their practical work as a study of design as well as a study for design. This possibility is relatively new and studies conducted for the use of the profession are valuable. Practicians with doctoral degrees change the learning environment as well as the relationship between education and the profession. Jüri Kermik from Brighton University dissected changes in the landscape of design education on the basis of the newly created future design programme at Brighton in an age of new technology. That presentation was supplemented on the theme of experimental spatial art by Professor Morten Lund from Chalmers University, a well-known supervisor of interior architecture students at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA). Peter Dautzenberg, head of the Dutch Society of Interior Architects (BNI), interpreted the role of the interior architect in the world of today and of tomorrow. Tom Callebaut from Sint-Lucas University Brussels/Ghent analysed the contemporisation of sacral places and spaces on the basis of his projects.

From Estonia: Tüüne-Kristin Vaikla introduced patterns of spatial intervention in the practice of reinterpreting a building on the basis of the example from her PhD study. Kaos Architects and Ville Lausmäe showed their newly completed rooms, speaking of the object as a method for creating a whole. Newly appointed EKA professor and head of the Chair of Interior Architecture Studies Hannes Praks described freedom and new fresh breezes in teaching the profession of interior architecture. Martin Samm from Riga, who was educated at EKA, acknowledged the marginal role of the interior architect in Latvia.

The interdisciplinary workshop Sound in Space / Space in Sound supervised by well-known Estonian composer Helene Tulve & co dealt with the spatial dimension in music. In the course of the creation of an improvisational work of music, the way a room affects sound was analysed, along with how sound accentuates different characteristics of a room and the dimension of time.

The symposium ended with a broad-based round table discussion where the identity of the interior architect, limits, cooperation and the environment under construction were examined. Alongside home design periodicals, it is extremely important to talk about the nature of interior architecture as a profession and the professional role of interior architecture in today’s world and Estonia. We see architects and designers, landscape architects, art scholars and curators, restorators, urbanists, graphic designers and artists as our kindred spirits – thus very different creative practicians and theoreticians associated with space.

In addition to self-evident aesthetics, society expects backbone in collision with the lines of force that dictate the market, well thought out choices in reducing the ecological footprint, defiance of the magic of consumerism, and the reinterpretation of more conservational contemporary ways of life from the interior architect.

May we meet again at the next symposium!

[1] European Council of Interior Architects.
[2] European Charter of Interior Architecture Training 2013.