Modern Interiors Research Centre

Identity and Habitation: Modern Interiors Research Centre

Kingston School of Art's Modern Interiors Research Centre is the world's leading research centre in its field. It is dedicated to the study of interiors and their contents from the mid 19th century to the present day. Research is historically focused and consideration is also given to contemporary practice and theory.

The Research Centre places its emphasis is on identity and habitation – the experience of being inside spaces. It explores the interior as an interface between architecture and designed objects. Research fields include design and architectural history; and visual, material, personal and spatial culture.

The Modern Interiors Research Centre is part of a large international network, staging conferences and events and engaging with international authorities and institutions. It works with, for example, partners as diverse as the V&A and the Museum of the Home (former Geffrye Museum) to the Universities of Melbourne and Oviedo.

Its influential publications have included Designing the Modern Interior (2010) and Biography, Identity and the Interior (2013). The Research Centre launched the academic journal Interiors: Design Architecture Culture in 2010.

The overarching aim of the Research Centre is to create a body of knowledge that will inform interior design knowledge worldwide.

The Centre welcomes PhD applications in any subject related to the modern interior. As a research student at Kingston University you will become part of a strong and ambitious postgraduate community. You will be fully supported by a rich programme of research training, including research workshops, seminars, guest lectures, symposia, and related activities organised through the research centres.

Find out more about how to apply for a PhD and PhD funding opportunities.

Book cover of Interiors in the Era of Covid-19
Interiors in the Era of Covid-19: Interior Design between the Public and Private Realms, Bloomsbury, 2023. Editors: Penny Sparke, Ersi Ioannidou, Pat Kirkham, Stephen Knott and Jana Scholze

Call for Papers: The Exhibition as Interior

Conference (online), Tuesday 9 May 2023

The Modern Interiors Research Centre, Kingston University, London, UK

Exhibitions have long been studied by scholars in the fields of art, design, and architectural history and cultural studies. They have, for example, been seen as representations of national or global identities – as communicators of a range of ideologies, from political fascism to Cold War socialism and corporate capitalism and, most recently, as tools for undertaking and sharing research. They have long been understood as having a didactic and/or a commercial function. Very often, however, the focus has been more upon their contents and their narratives than on their design. Very seldom have they been considered as a specific type of constructed interior.

This conference addresses histories, theories, and practices of exhibitions as interiors in a wide range of settings. They could include examples in purpose-built exhibition halls, pavilions, museums, and galleries, or others which temporarily occupy pre-existing structures such as hotels, department stores, transport spaces, heritage sites or private houses. It welcomes papers which consider the whole interior of the exhibition, from the building, the part of a building, or the temporary enclosure in which it is set, to the navigation within it. It embraces research on the spatial, material, and virtual qualities of exhibitions, the sensorial and the performative, as well as the political, social, ecological, and educational. It will also explore the roles and experiences of figures including the exhibition designer, curator, programmer, and exhibition visitor. Exhibitions under review could range from the cultural to the commercial and engage with examples created in both institutional and non-institutional settings, by amateurs and professionals, and through interdisciplinary, collaborative and/or participatory practices.

This new approach towards exhibitions as constructed interiors will open the possibility of engaging with ideas discussed in relation to interiors in general, from interiority to the relationship between the private and the public realms. It will also establish exhibitions as a site for discussion of themes of contemporary relevance, such as decolonisation, gender politics and the climate emergency. Importantly, the conference will also interrogate the consequences of adopting this perspective for contemporary curatorial and exhibition design practices.

Proposals for papers could address the following:

  • The exhibition as an interior space of modernity
  • The exhibition as an urban interior
  • The interior space of the purpose-built exhibition hall
  • Exhibitions in domestic spaces
  • From the physical to the virtual exhibition space
  • Exhibitions in cultural spaces, e.g. museums, galleries, libraries, heritage sites
  • Exhibitions in public and commercial spaces, e.g. department stores, transport spaces, industrial spaces
  • The exhibition as a sensorial space
  • The exhibition as a narrative space
  • The exhibition as a space of re/presentation
  • The exhibition as a space of research/experimentation/speculation
  • The exhibition as a space of power
  • The exhibition as spaces of temporality
  • The exhibition as political space
  • The exhibition as side of production
  • The exhibition as made, designed and crafted space
  • The exhibition as reconstructed exhibition space

Please submit an abstract of 300 words (Word doc) for a paper presentation based on original, unpublished research, including your name and institutional affiliation, to Professor Penny Sparke (p.sparke@kingston.ac.uk) and to Associate Professor Jana Scholze (j.scholze@kingston.ac.uk) by Monday 5 December 2022.

Exhibition: At Home

17 November - 25 February, Stanley Picker Gallery*

*Closed 20 to 31 December 2022 / Reopens 3 January 2023

At Home consists of four films which each explore a key theme of domesticity: shelter, identities, well-being and connectivity. Created by the artists, designers and researchers Martha Rosler, Noam Toran, Superflux, and Simone Niquille between 1989 and 2021, the films offer a critical reflection on the values and meanings of the home in the past, present and future.

The exhibition is the next step in an ongoing research project by Penny Sparke, Jana Scholze and Cat Rossi, three members of Kingston University's Modern Interiors Research Centre. It originated as At Home: Panorama de nos vies domestiques, an exhibition curated for the 12th Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne (April to July 2022).

Countering more widespread presentations of domesticity focused on consumerist visions or technological utopias, At Home instead addresses experiences of living in and creating a home, wherein exhibition visitors are as much the experts as the curators.

  • Exhibition design by Plaid
  • Curated by Penny Sparke, Jana Scholze and Cat Rossi
  • Originally commissioned by Cité du Design and Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2022

Symposium: At Home

Wednesday, 24 May 2022, Online, 10am–7pm (Central European Time)

In conjunction with the exhibition At Home: Panorama de nos vies domestiques, Biennale Internationale Design Sainte-Étienne, 6 April to 31 July 2022. Curated by Cat Rossi, Jana Scholze, Penny Sparke.

Our homes provide us with shelter; with places where our identities are formed and can be expressed; and with environments in which we can maintain our well-being, and from which we can communicate with people at a distance through technology, and directly with our local communities. These benefits of living ‘at home' are constantly being challenged and continually need to be interrogated and re-defined.

The exhibition At Home: Panorama de nos vies domestiques, curated by Penny Sparke, Cat Rossi and Jana Scholze, will address the major changes that have characterised, and will characterise, our ways of living in domestic spaces before, during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

To accompany the exhibition, this day-long online symposium will host two keynote speakers, including Olivier Peyricot, the Scientific Director of the Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Étienne, and Dr. Annmarie Adams, who has joint appointments in the School of Architecture and the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University, Montreal, and four conversations between the curators and a selection of designers whose work is in the exhibition, among them Anab Jain from the design studio Superflux and film-maker and architect, Liam Young.

While the keynote addresses will provide an overview of the aims and the design of the exhibition, as well as the broader context of the links between our homes and our well-being, the conversations will invite the audience to join in-depth discussions about the themes of shelter, identities, well-being and connectedness, which underpin the exhibition. Panel discussions will bring the ideas together and there will opportunities throughout the day for the audience to pose questions to the panel members.

View programme and video.

Modern Interior Research Centre MIRC 2021 Webinar: Interiors in the era of Covid-19

Wednesday, 24 March 2021: 10.30am–1.10pm and 2–5.10pm (GMT)

The Covid19 pandemic has caused people, worldwide, to be confined to their homes for extended periods of time. In addition to their traditional roles as places of refuge and nurturing, homes have had to accommodate the additional roles of schools, gymnasia, restaurants, cinemas, offices, making spaces and more. Above all, the home has been looked to as a site to support and enhance the well-being of its inhabitants in a variety of ways. Many of these new functions are tech-enabled. At the same time, the work and hospitality spaces in our city centre buildings sit empty.

MIRC's Webinar, Interiors in the era of Covid-19, reflects on the complex ways in which interiors have responded historically, and are responding, to Coronavirus and similar historical crises. Papers will address the multiple transformations that have taken place in interiors, both private and public, as a result of these and focus on how this has affected our perceptions of, and our relationships with, the interiors we inhabit.

View programme and videos

Programme for the event

Health and well-being

  • 10:30–10:40 Ken Fallas, Architect, Seoul, South Korea and EKaterina Kochetkova, Seoul National University of Science and Technology, South Korea: Virus, space and inequality: Korean design strategies for a post-Covid architecture. Watch this session here.
  • 10:40–10:50 Winnie Yl Chan, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China: House and health when the two worlds collide: the transformation of the multi-functionality in the urban spaces, interiors and the case of Hong Kong (1900 and present)
  • 10:50–11:00 Selin Geerinckx and Els de Vos, University of Antwerp, Belgium: How Lea Daan brought body movement into 1930s Belgian homes. Watch this session here.
  • 11:00–11:15 Panel discussion Watch this session here.
  • 11:15–11:30 Q&A session

Beyond the home

  • 11:30–11:40 Elena Elgani, Francesco Scullica and Umberto Monchiero, Politecnico di Milano, Italy: Sustainable community workspaces in the post COVID-19 era
  • 11:40–11:50 Nurefsan Sönmez and Belgin Terim Çavka, Yasar University Selcuk Yasar Campus, Izmir, Turkey: Transformation of hospital areas in the world after Covid-19 pandemic
  • 11:50–12:00 Panel discussion
  • 12:00–12:10 Q&A session
  • 12:10–12:25 Break

Educating interior designers

  • 12:25–12:35 Aslihan Senel, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey: Connected interiors as an architectural design studio
  • 12:35–12:45 Nina Bassoli, Roberto Gigliotti and Davide Tommaso Ferrando, UniBZ Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy: Musée Domino: a virtual museum of the domesticity in lockdown
  • 12:45–12:55 Panel discussion
  • 12:55–13:05 Q&A session
  • 13:05–14:00 Break

The role of collections and museums

  • 14:00–14:10 Lois Weinthal, Ryerson University, Canada, Patrick Macklin, Glasgow School of Art, UK and Wen Liang, Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University, China: Interior archipelago – postcards from our islands
  • 14:10–14:20 Stefania Napolitano, MAXXI Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo, Rome, Italy: MAXXI EDUCATION The domestic body
  • 14:20–14:30 Danielle Patten, Museum of the Home, London, UK: Wellbeing in the home during the coronavirus pandemic: Stay Home- rapid response collecting project at the Museum of the Home
  • 14:30–14:45 Panel discussion
  • 14:45–15:00 Q&A session

Working from home

  • 15:00–15:10 Marcela Torres Molano, Greg Labrosse and Vanessa Sicotte, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada: The possibilities and limitations of working from home: the experience of a transitional justice case worker at the Columbian Truth Commission
  • 15:10–15:20 Ye Xu, Katharina Borsi and Jonathan Hale, University of Nottingham, UK: Working at home: architects during the pandemic in China
  • 15:20–15:30 Fiona Del Puppo, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland: Lockdown experts? Interiors of women working online and at home
  • 15:30–15:45 Panel discussion
  • 15:45–16:00 Q&A session
  • 16:00–16:10 Break

Representing home

  • 16:10–16:20 Shellie Holden, Swansea College of Art, Wales, UK: Performing the matrixial – homework/housework in a Covid climate
  • 16:20–16:30 Inga Bryden, University of Winchester, UK: At home on screen: objects and small comforts
  • 16:30–16:40 Nicola Blake, Ashworth Parkes Architects, Cambridge, UK: Representations of the home – during Covid-19 lockdown
  • 16:40–16:55 Panel discussion
  • 16:55–17:10 Q&A session
  • 17:10 Closing of webinar

For more information

Please contact Penny Sparke, Fiona Fisher or Patricia Lara-Betancourt.