The design of interiors has come to embody a line of egocentric thoughts. It purports to put our biological body—and possibly even our soul and individualistic existence—at its center. Womb-like sensations arise, promising warmth, safety, and other prenatal comforts. How do we swaddle or cushion the self sufficiently for it to survive our savage reality? Interiority as a pure and peaceful haven for the spirit … a mindset that seems increasingly coveted, even as we roam in public. We create mobile cocoons, shielding ourselves with screens, headsets, and blank stares. We eschew or minimize contact with others. Absurdly, even though technology has seemingly brought the outside world in, our devices have diminished points of contact with it. The public realm is contained, compressed, and trapped behind thinner and thinner layers of glass. The exterior is powered up or down with the swipe of a finger.
Where this notion of interior design evokes thoughts of monastic disconnection, of dwelling in a shielded totality, we would like to consider its opposite: the interior as a locus for a new collective condition, an inside that fosters exchange. After all, it is mostly in the perceived comfort of our interiors that we let our guards down and allow for connections to occur. Up until modernity, humanity experienced its interiors—even those of the dwelling—as a public domain. The living room was a place for conflict and exchange. Even our beds were shared. Given this, let us regard the interior not as a space created by protective surfaces and moods, but rather as a porous field defined by realms and structures. Otherness will trickle in and a productive contamination will ensue.
Beyond a spatial definition, a new exchange must be fueled by content. This collective interior demands activation by things: volumes and objects, elements that supersede their functional obligations to play suggestive and symbolic roles—think of the kaaba, the butudan, the kitchen table, or the parliamentary mace. We see this as the vivid place that Bruno Latour depicts wherein “(e)ach object gathers around itself a different assembly of relevant parties. Each object triggers new occasions to passionately differ and dispute. Each object may also offer new ways of achieving closure without having to agree on much else.”1 In the place of comfort, the new interior instead offers devices of contestation and the promise of an active public.
In order to accommodate differences, an architecture of the interior will be assembled with characterful structures and objects that trigger discursivities, to fuel the fire, the textures taking on qualities of the outside, rupturing and destabilizing. Think of sublime volumes, endless depths, infinity pools, and fillets. Think of Tarkovsky: the rain inside, cobblestones in the living room, sand in the bathtub. The interior as a space of contestation might recoup some of the scope architecture has forfeited to the creators of soothing mood and Pinterest pinboards. As layered and fleeting realities of the exterior return indoors, condensed and redirected, they might unsettle the insulated, comfortable individual in pursuit of a more vital collective interiority.
¹ Bruno Latour, “From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik, or How to Make Things Public,” in Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, ed. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005), 5.