2013 marks the fourth edition of The Great Indoors, the biennial international interior architecture award organised as a collaborative effort between Frame magazine and two Maastricht-based cultural institutions: MarresHouse for Contemporary CultureandBureau Europa, Platform for Architecture. With its overwhelming amount of entries, 271 from 39 different countries, the prize could be considered as a window frame, providing a panoramic overview of what’s happening in the discipline we call ‘interior architecture’.
It’s up to the international jury to work through and weigh hundreds of entries, from across the globe, to nominate 20 projects in four categories and, finally, to choose the winners of this year’s awards.
In the medieval town of Maastricht, the jury came together and convened for 3 days in September:Edouard François (FR) (Director Maison Edouard François, Paris), Beatrice Galilee (UK) (Writer and Chief Curator of 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, London), Fabrizio Gallanti (IT) (Associate Director Programs at Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal), Christien Meindertsma (NL) (Designer, Rotterdam) and Lyndon Neri (CN) (Founding Partner of Neri&Hu Design and Research Office, Shanghai and Design Republic, Shanghai), chaired by Valentijn Byvanck (Director Marres) and witnessed by Saskia van Stein (Artistic Director Bureau Europa) and Robert Thiemann (Director and Editor-in-Chief of Frame magazine).
After silently looking, working through the material, the main objectives the jury distilled may be regarded as the current trends in interior design: on the one hand, ‘the end of minimalism’, on the other, a patchwork of reused materials, styles and buildings. The empty, smooth and aesthetically overwhelming interior spaces of the recent past seem to have made way for more human, more tactile and more personal universes. Places built up from a rich array of fragments brought together to create decorative, atmospheric interiors. The jury allocates these reapplications of the personal and sees this reflected in the use of basic gestures, materials, colours, fabrics and everyday furniture. Breathing clarity and simplicity, these interiors are quite 'human', therefore the question arises: could one say that we – modern nomads – need comfortable and clear interiors to feel at home? Counterpointing our ever-so-flexible and dynamic lives, suggesting composition rather than design, process above the object, a narrative instead of a one-liner.
Without being a particular style as such, many of the nominated interiors show decorative elements, which are brought together in a way that acknowledges cultural differentiation. Reinterpreting traditional elements, in search of authenticity and appreciation of craftsmanship, a contemporary identity is expressed and a cultural heritage is represented.
The personal and atmospheric universe is brought to its full potential in interiors that hint at a preoccupation with fiction, speculation and storytelling. Appearing to shake functional burdens, these interiors are spatially well designed as well as being visually kaleidoscopic, as if ushering in a new baroque.
The Nature of Things
For this edition of The Great Indoors Award, the competition organisers chose the theme ‘The Nature of Things’. Although the theme is mainly geared towards the educational trajectory paralleling the international contest, the jury’s nominations show unspoken tacit preference for reuse and impermanence.The influence of current economic conditions – demographic growth and the realization that industrialization, and the consequent increase of consumerism, are leading to a scarcity of natural resources – are reflected in the design of our interior spaces. This growing awareness introduces themes such as sustainability, reuse and longevity, which play an increasingly important role in shaping the physical interior. All this results in a revaluation of the local and a renewed interest in existing structures: for example Hub Madrid, a flexible office design in an old garage by Churtichaga+Quadra-Salcedo, or grander schemes such as the regeneration of the old Matadero industrial zone in Madrid by the same firm. The Cineteca uses bare and simple materials while giving the existing site a contemporary and glamorous feel. Or creating an entrywith all ‘natural’ elements for the Nishi Grand Stair (foyer, Canberra),March Studio’sproductive use of existing waste makes for a dynamic experience. The possibilities provided by new media and innovative technologies are making their way into design practice. The Noorderparkbar coffee house in Amsterdam, designed by Overtreders W and Bureau SLA, was constructed using only surplus material gathered on eBay and brought together by hundreds of volunteers.
These developments are signs of our times expressing themselves in social processes such as co-creation and open source, radiating authenticity and human scale.Another remarkable development noticed by the jury was the high quality of the imagery, the professionalization of the representing such interior projects: the interior design discipline is growing up in public.
NB: download the digital jury report for details about all winners and nominees.