First Day, First Year - Interior Design

The first day of the first year of studying immediately challenges students’ preconceptions of what studying interior design might entail.

This year Bachelor of Interior Design (Honours) students spent the first week off campus at Testing Grounds in the Melbourne Arts Precinct. Testing Grounds is located in the Melbourne Arts precinct and provides support and a temporary space for a range of creative practices encompassing art, performance and design.

When the students first arrived at Testing Grounds, they were Welcomed to Country by Janet Galpin from the Boon Wurrung Foundation. Opening their studies in this way was an educational moment for  the students as they learnt how any work they do as interior designers in Australia happens on unceded land and within a temporal context and history that precedes white settlement and the constructed built environment of Melbourne.

The students were invited to participate in a project titled Continuously Under Construction which was held as part of Melbourne Design Week. Their construction became the framework for an installation Hostile Infrastructure (April 2019) by the artist Bruno Booth.

Through painting, sculpture, video and installation, Booth presents his experiences of using a wheelchair. Understandings of disability are fostered through immersive installations. Booth describes Hostile Infrastructure: ‘For this work participants wheel a wheelchair down a long, neon lit corridor that narrows imperceptibly, the walls and ceiling close in until the realisation dawns that their wheelchair won’t fit through the exit’; how it let people experience ‘the feelings of rebelliousness, slight indignity, failure and amusement that disabled people experience daily’.

Our students built the infrastructure. They paired up to carry and screw together three-metre pre-drilled lengths of timber. They then worked in small groups to make a model and then constructed at full scale an addition to the 25-metre tunnel.  Choreographing the build in this way encouraged conversation and collaboration between students. 

At lunchtime, the staff prepared and served a meal on site, providing nourishment but more importantly the time and space for new social connections to develop between the students as they sat and ate together.

Designing the first day of the Interior Design program at RMIT nurtures an ecology for active and participatory learning and demonstrates to the students the necessity and rewards of being engaged – socially and practically – with their immediate surroundings and the wider community. It also engages students in a re-framing of interior design as an expansive practice that is not simply defined as the design of the inside of buildings.

Dr Olivia Hamilton – First Year Interior Design Coordinator – brings knowledge from her practice research that focuses on commoning as an interior design practice through into her teaching. She is interested in commoning and its contribution to positioning interior design as a relational practice embedded in social connection and shaped by changing conditions. Olivia has written about this in the international journal Interiors. Design/Architecture/Culture and received the 2018 TPJ Best Paper Award for her paper titled ‘Process of Commoning in the Production and Proliferation of Shared Space’ published in The Plan Journal, 3, no. 2, “The Shared Project” (2018).

Here is an extract from her article ‘Commoning Interior Design Pedagogy’ in Interiors: ‘The interior design studio classroom is particularly suited to teaching approaches guided by processes and frameworks of commoning. Commoning entails locating self-interest within broader interests that privilege the wellbeing and ecology of the community. Although more frequently understood as the processes that occur when people manage and maintain a shared resource, it can also apply to the relations that occur when people maintain a shared interest or project. 

The values encouraged by commoning processes mean that self-interest is located within broader interests that privilege the well-being and ecology of the community. … The intensive aimed to encourage inclusive and emergent processes as a way of working together to introduce a more expansive view of the implications and experience of interiors, interior education and interior design.’ [Olivia Hamilton, ‘Commoning Interior Design Pedagogy’, Interiors. Design/Architecture/Culture, Volume 9, 2018, Issue 2.]

Photograph credits: Emma Byrnes

aboriginal flag
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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer