Introducing Disaster Relief into Interior Design Pedagogy
With radically shifting weather patterns at the forefront of our student consciousness, particularly following Hurricane Sandy and the devastation it laid at our doorstep, students have learned that the interiors of urban mega structures are often utilized as shelter sites, making disaster relief a critical interior issue. To address this issue, senior Interior Design students were assigned the design of interior disaster relief shelters. Supporting and sustaining human well-being is critical to survival and is an ethos central to the discipline of interior design, extreme or otherwise (Davies 2016). Additionally, according to CIDA criteria, exposure to contemporary issues affecting interior design and to a variety organizational structures is essential (CIDA, 2014).
The coursework was specifically developed to introduce the relevant program typology of interior disaster relief shelter. Methodologically the studio embraced the pedagogical stance that critical interior design theory and the act of making and testing design solutions simultaneously is an essential interior design practice. The coursework was developed as a series of three primary design investigations that increased in scale, starting from the body.
The project was assigned in three major parts, A, B and C. Students were to build and test their designs for parts A and B at full scale. For project part A, students were to design a wearable element that satisfies a basic need in a disaster relief shelter. They were asked to consider how Interior Design is largely about creating and modifying enclosure for the body and how they think about enclosure at an intimate scale. For part B, students were assigned to design a place to sit. They were asked to consider how a seat can become place-making, how people sit, and can a seat contribute to survival? They were asked to consider transportability and materiality. For part C, students were to design an Interior Shelter and Site Plan. Drawing upon their previous designs for a wearable and a place to sit, students were asked to consider. How can you accommodate individuals and families? What are the shelter’s "green" features? Are there security and/or maintenance issues? In space planning the shelter how will you consider human behavior? What is necessary, and what might enhance life at the shelter?
Students produced a series of full scale testable. Student work evidenced a broadened understanding of potential overlaps within the design disciplines, most notably fashion
and industrial design. Students evidenced learning that in the study and practice of interior design, it is critical that we consider and pursue disaster relief and other extreme program typologies. Most notable in their course evaluations were the recurring comments that the course had broadened their appreciation for possible programs and practices relevant to interior design.