Title: The Modern Interior. Toward a Re-evaluation in the Context of Adaptive Reuse
Authors: Böröcz, Zsuzsanna
Coutinho, Bárbara
Issue Date: Sep-2016
Publisher: Docomomo International
Host Document: Adaptive Reuse. The Modern Movement Towards the Future pages:696-699
Conference: Docomomo International Conference edition:14 location:Lisbon date:6-9 September 2016
Article number: S21
If we look at the three design disciplines, city planning, architecture and interior design, we see that the results of city planning usually lasts the longest, while interior design, and indeed furniture, tend to enjoy a much shorter life span. One could call Interior Design the most ephemeral form of spatial design. Though it most closely shapes everyday life and as such testifies on a quite direct and intimate level to the cultural conditions of a period, it is subject to the most frequent replacement or alteration. Its directness and ‘close contact’ quality is also what makes it vulnerable.
Recently the growing attention for sustainable development has added momentum to the cause of heritage conservation. In the field of architecture especially, ‘adaptive reuse’ cannot be imagined out of the current debate. The capacity for reuse of Modernist architecture in particular is already well known. Indeed, ideas such as flexibility, adaptability or extendibility can be considered as integral to the Modernist legacy (especially post WWII). But, whereas reuse strengthens the plea for conserving (and thoughtfully adapting) architectural heritage, it very often weakens the plea for conserving its interiors. The presence of original interior design and furniture undoubtedly makes the reuse of a building more difficult. On the other hand it is clear that if the former are removed, the latter loses something of its essence, in some cases even its very heart. The dilemma becomes even greater when the interior has been conceived with the architecture as a Gesamtkunstwerk. We see this, for example, in deliberations on the fate of the many abandoned Modernist parish churches (and other religious built heritage) in Western Europe.

Against this background the goal of this session is to search for cases and methodologies from around the world, in which, on the basis of an thorough study of the original situation and ideas, the Modernist Interior has been preserved, in its original or in a changed state, performing its original or a new function. In doing this, we would like to develop a new discourse, open up new avenues of thought, from a plural, inter-disciplinary perspective, i.e. beyond traditional boundaries, which applies the understanding and experiencing of the Modernist interior as the basis for decisions on its conservation and reuse. This also includes theoretical and critical contributions on how, why, for whom etc. these decisions can be made.

Leading questions:
In the context of a Gesamtkunstwerk, how did the Modern Movement respond to the newest insights and developments in its search for a coherent (and also utopian) environment? What was or were the theoretical framework(s) behind the Modern Interior’s identity, which resulted in a coherent style uniting architecture, furniture, design, decorative arts, utilitarian objects, equipment, textiles and lighting. But most importantly: how can this research be implemented toward a responsible, more sustainable and therefore adaptive heritage policy? In this session special interest goes out to the presentation of research results which use fundamental source material, archival finds and original drawings in order to lay bare the architectural, theoretical, historical, aesthetical, technical and ideological ideas of the designer, relevant to the interior, and then implements this in a site-specific conservation and/or reuse strategy.

Key issues:
The balance between conservation and reuse.
The consideration of the Gesamtkunstwerk in the general context of heritage and, ideally, of the Modernist Interior as an opportunity, an added value rather than an obstacle.
Preserving the interior designs as a strategy to safeguard and understand the Gesamtkunstwerk idea of the Modern Movement.

Scientific relevance of the session in the context of recent thinking or debate:
This session wants to stress the need for the creation of a research and work group inside Docomomo with special focus on interior design and product design (furniture, fashion, graphic etc.). There is an unmistakable growing interest in interior design as an academic discipline. It is time to implement its new findings in the discourse on the heritage problems regarding the modern interior.

List of potential themes that will particularly fit in with the goals of the session:
- Flexibility and capacity of adaptation of the modern interior in our contemporary sociality and changing world.
- Methodologies that concentrate on building bridges between the original interior design concept and various contemporary requirements (ecology, sustainability, authenticity, intangibility)
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IC
Appears in Collections:Department of Architecture - miscellaneous
Architecture, Campuses Sint-Lucas Brussels and Ghent

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