With a raging competition between practitioners and a cut-throat race for gaining more and more projects, there always has been a debate between architecture and interior design.

What are the specifics in architecture and interior design?
Who should address them?
Should there be a consensus between both the practitioners?
Who has more authority and who has legal permissions to execute the work on site?
Who has more expertise and what not…?
But the main question still lies in the fact that, are these two fields different?

Has architecture ever been possible without the knowledge of interiors or the nitty-gritties involved in planning spaces internally so as to have a well-designed and proportional, functional exterior?

With this backdrop, the much newer concept of Interior Architecture has sprung up in recent times. It has stemmed up from the curriculum of most of the architecture schools and usually a subject of expertise being taken at the post graduate level, while interior design has been pursued by many in the form of a diploma course and later as a post graduate study under Master of Arts (Interior Design). With the constant changes in the curriculum and its comparison with the Architectural Curriculum, interior architecture course could just be a bridge between them both. A curriculum that touches on both the aspects thoroughly, making it a branch of study for people who are equally passionate about both these realms. Not that these two are different from each other, but the fact that it gets divided professionally as well as academically under various circumstances, the need to address to both these fields equally has sprung up.

So, boiling down to the basic difference in interior architecture and interior design, the name itself gives us a hint. Interior architecture touches upon subjects of planning the interior spaces, juxtaposing them with each other, the circulation patterns and how the human interaction gets complimented to the designed spaces. It concentrates majorly on extensive planning strategies, user-based principles of design, ergonometric comfort and eventually creating a comfortable interior ambiance. It does develop a holistic approach of how the building has been planned to suit the internal requirements and thus, make the spaces more efficient and cozier. A person qualified with an architectural degree and practicing in interior projects could be named as an interior architect. With knowledge about the structure and how a building entity operates, it acts as a bonus for an interior architect to design spaces accordingly.

Whereas when one talks about interior design, it’s a limited ballgame involving placing furniture, enhancing the interior surfaces like the walls, ceilings and floors, by additions and subtractions in the existing interior spaces, decorating the furniture, suggesting upholstery and colour combinations etc. This of course is a vital part in changing the appearance and the ambiance of a certain interior space. A person practicing interior design should have a diploma in interior design or decoration, or one could have pursued arts and then entered into this creative field of designing spaces.

Though the subjectivity and dynamism remain somewhat similar in both the fields, a clear distinction lies in the educational qualifications as well as the planning part of it. The changes that could be made in a certain interior space would be flexible if worked upon by an interior architect due to prior education and skillsets acquired as compared to an interior designer who might concentrate more on enhancing the available space and surfaces. As an architect by qualification, it becomes easy to encompass the technicalities of lot of other fields like lighting, fixtures, landscape, structural entities, conscious decisions of demolishing certain parts and rebuilding according to the new layouts and thus, reconfiguring the services too. As an interior architect, knowledge regarding the support services like water supply, electrical wires, DBs, plumbing systems, heating and ventilation has already been acquired and thus, becomes helpful in designing spaces.

Professionally and legally, as an architect, one can employ different expert agencies underneath one registered umbrella firm to give an all-inclusive solutions to a client whereas interior designers for the most part have to either work under architects, architectural firms and then eventually after getting experience can freelance or work in conjunction with a fellow architect and other experts. But sadly, they cannot own a proprietary firm under their name since their qualification doesn’t give them the authority. Intellectually and ably, they can handle the on-going proceedings of an office though.

I would like to say that interior architecture would encompass the interior design in a way, that having both the expertise on board would definitely be beneficial in terms of client acquisition, better team work, better division of work, better handling of the office and ultimately getting great outputs. A practice that is widely seen in the western countries where the jobs are demarcated according to their qualifications, divided according to their expertise, work getting done due to an efficient team functioning together, and thus clutter or confusion is avoided to the maximum extent. This division in the professional market might have been one of the reasons for the interior architecture as a field to develop. This segregation if followed here as well would definitely lead to productive outputs and healthy team relationships where everyone respects and admires each other’s skillsets and expertise and come up with outstanding design solutions.

Shruti Ramteerthkar
Author

An architect by profession, bookworm, traveller, writer and painter by passion… she is also trying her hand in architectural photography… But, at the core, she is a person who wants to experience the world as it comes and brushes past her in the most dramatic yet in a subtle way!

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