For years together, Architecture and Interior Design has been considered two sides of the same coin and to speak of one meant to eventually discuss the other. Gita Ramanan brings you the lowdown on the professions to help you make the clearer choice
Architecture, to most people, is the art and science of designing buildings. We have an understanding that an architect takes an empty space and gives it a form by nature of the building he creates in the space. By doing so, he creates spaces that are ordered as per the function that motivated the creation of the building in the first place. As part of the architectural degree, all students are required to undergo 4-8 months of practical training at an architect’s office. I had the opportunity to practice with several different architects – large firms, smaller firms, even a contracting firm. I had the opportunity to learn and implement with growing confidence, details with respect to both fields. I researched both with passion – the projects, the details and the professional practice.
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
Architects primarily design the whole structure of a building (its exterior and interior structure) which includes electrical and plumbing requirements in each plan with a focus on the exterior design elements, and its interior architecture and ceiling finishes. Interior designers on the other hand design the look/style of a project’s interiors which will include details of furniture, interior materials, finishes, hardware, furnishings, textiles, window treatments, paint colour, wallpaper and accents, a lighting plan, flooring and lighting (fixtures and placement). Architects who have a flair for detailing of interior spaces often gain experience in both fields and can competently deliver both kinds of projects, but Interior Designers are not qualified to undertake building design and certification.
THE ARCHITECT AND THE DESIGNER
An architect needs an understanding of a building’s basic structures and must also comprehend how that structure needs to go hand-in-hand with its environment. Knowledge of both, city and state building codes, is necessary to get critical documents, such as permits, completed. He is also responsible for the integrity and reliability of the buildings. An interior designer typically attends design schooling for several years and receives certification from the industry. He is capable of taking any place and turning it into something endearing and homely. In the main, interior designers work with fabrics, furnishings floorings paint, wall coverings, art and object d’arts.
Professionals in both disciplines have cross-over skills, namely space-planning, and are creative and artistic individuals. In most countries, there are professional degree courses in Architecture and Interior Design. The differences start after you graduate. Abroad, both Architects & Interior Designers (again, not to be confused with interior “decorators”) register themselves with professional bodies and are responsible for ensuring the projects they work on, are as per the local and national codes and regulations.
In India though, only Architects register with the Council of Architecture and accept responsibility to design as per the codes and regulations of the state and country. Every project has to be submitted for approval of the local body and carries the signature and seal of the Architect- who is culpable in case the building structure fails. Architects undergo five years of rigorous study and decades of practice and training because what they create has the power to change lives. Interior Designers though have no such registration yet, and as India lacks comprehensive codes defining the nature of interior spaces – this education is sparingly imparted. Architecture students are familiar with the entire code, yet design students seldom are taught these details.
THE EDUCATIONAL POINT OF VIEW
I will add though, that experience is the cure for the ills that plague the education system that is not suitably current to the rigours of practice. Decades of experience, individual talent and dedication can and does see architects practice interior design and designers practice architecture, with the former example in the majority. The switchover in the second case is difficult as there is no formal training imparted to designers in the concepts of space and form. Also, to practice as an architect, a designer needs to take up the full five-year architecture degree to practice professionally.
Nowadays, there is a proliferation of Interior Design courses, but not as per the code. Diploma courses of a year do not satisfactorily equip a student for the rigours of a practising designer – indeed they are primarily decorators. Decorators are concerned with the arrangement of the interior space and cannot competently conduct interior-space planning and programming. Designers though can do both, except change/affect the structural design of the building.
Architects are not interior designers by qualification and neither are Interior Architects qualified architects. However, both generally understand each other’s work and can sort of do it by virtue of gaining experience in the fields. Now, when it comes to the profession, it is definitely true that an interior designer can’t legally practice architecture. But as an architect, you can practice interior design professionals. And although it depends upon the individual (passion, skill), I would highly recommend pursuing some level of education in interior design, may it be a Minor in college, a Bachelor’s degree, or simply doing relevant and continued research. It’s a separate field for a reason. The same goes for interior designers wanting to be architects, except there are more legal issues involved.
In my firm, we hire full-qualified architects, architectural draughtsmen and interior designers. Each has its own core area of specialization. As we undertake several Interior design projects, we hire specialists who can design and detail these spaces competently. These specialists can be either Architects or Interior designers. A fresher architect has very little grounding in interior design, but, as I mentioned before, can gain experience and eventually work well if they overlay their natural interest with dedication, a willingness to learn and a lot of hard work. My interior designers though tend to specialise in a certain typology of projects and then continue doing more projects in that vein. I have not personally seen an interior designer learn and then practice architecture.
WORLD’S BEST INTERIOR DESIGN COLLEGES
1. Florence Design Academy, Italy
2. The Interior Design School, London
3. Raffles Design International, Mumbai
4. ISDI Parsons, Mumbai
5. Pearl Academy, New Delhi
WORLD’S BEST ARCHITECTURE COURSES
1. Southern California Institute of Architecture, SCI-Arc (Los Angeles, California, USA)
2. Architectural Association, AA (London, England)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT (Massachusetts, USA)
4. School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi
5. Sir JJ College of Architecture, Mumbai