The Interior Design Practices course runs parallel to the Partnered Interior Design Studio and provides opportunities for students to refine specific skills and techniques in communication and technologies relevant to contemporary interior design practice. Over the past year we have investigated virtual environments in interior design practice.
In the first semester, we looked at the intrinsic qualities of virtual environments and how these yield, and yield to, new practices of interior design. How is our practice and understanding of interior design changed by virtual environments, and how does interior design change virtual environment design? What are the stakes, what is up for grabs and what is in play for designers working in the virtual? These questions took on a new relevance and urgency with the sudden onset of global virtual work and meetings occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the second semester, we tightened our focus to consider the role of virtual environments in retail spaces. Under the broad title "Immersive Distributed Retail Spaces", we looked at the state of the interaction, or contrast, between online and physical retail spaces right in the midst of the pandemic. Noting that, leading up to the pandemic, retail design had been moving towards 'experiential retail' for a physically immersive experience in-store, while leaving the prosaic acts of item selection and payment to be handled online, we explored the implications for experiential online retail. Taking experiential retail's fundamental concept of relationship, we explored notions of experience, immersion, narrative, presence, agency, journey and affect to work through speculative designs for a virtual and expanded notion of retail space design.
In many ways, these Interior Design Practices courses allowed the students to begin designing for the post-pandemic world, where the elements and principles of virtual design are elevated to a level of importance equal to those of space design, expanded from a utilitarian role of interface into a genuinely experiential function of lived interior. It is exciting to experience the designs of the students in this context and to participate in their design process as they respond to the intimidating but marvellous invitation of the virtual in the post-pandemic era of interior design.
Dr. Adam Nash
Associate Professor, Virtual Interior