Inhabitation as a process:

Theoretical frameworks for analysing interiors


  • Fátima Pombo University of Leuven
  • Wouter Bervoets University of Leuven
  • Hilde Heynen University of Leuven



Inhabitation, Domestic spaces, Spatial design


The process of ‘inhabitation’, the process of appropriating interior, domestic spaces by individuals, is a complex phenomenon that has been studied in different disciplines and relies upon different theoretical frameworks. These frameworks often remain implicit, whereas they nevertheless have a profound impact as to how the economy of the interior is conceptualised. This paper sets out to map three of these frameworks. We discuss phenomenology, critical theory and Actor-Network-Theory (ANT). Phenomenology holds that the home is a place deeply needed by all individuals in order to be able to really reach their potential. Critical Theory rather seeks to unravel the hidden meanings of domestic interiors as tied up with the logics of capitalist economy, patriarchy and hetero-normativity. ANT studies home interiors as complex entanglements of objects and people that can only be fully understood when taking these interrelations into account. The paper argues that the choice of a particular framework should correlate with the research questions one is asking and with the motivations that drive particular research projects.


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Author Biographies

Fátima Pombo, University of Leuven

Fátima Pombo is Visiting Professor at Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning, University of Leuven, Belgium and Associate Professor at University of Aveiro, Portugal. Her research focuses on issues of interior architecture, design criticism and aesthetics. She is invited expert by European Commission to valuate European projects. In 1999/2000 she got a scholarship of Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung to research in Cultural Studies at University of Munich and in her Sabbatical in 2005/2006 a scholarship of Foundation to Science and Technology to research in Design Studies at University of Barcelona. Author of critical essays, journal articles, novels and children books.

Wouter Bervoets, University of Leuven

Wouter Bervoets is a PhD student at the department of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning, University of Leuven, Belgium. He obtained a Master in Architecture in 2004 at the Sint-Lucas School of Architecture and a Master in Urban Planning in 2010 at the Erasmus University College Brussels. Between 2005 and 2009 he worked as an architect for the Brussels based firm ARTER. Since 2009 he worked as a scientific collaborator on diverse research projects such as social mix in social housing and spatial planning in Flanders. In 2010 he started his PhD research which focuses on ‘Large, underused Houses in Flanders’.

Hilde Heynen, University of Leuven

Hilde Heynen is Full Professor and Chair of the department Architecture, Urbanism and Planning, University of Leuven, Belgium. Her research focuses on issues of modernity, modernism and gender in architecture. She is the author of Architecture and Modernity. A Critique (MIT Press, 1999) and the co-editor of Back from Utopia. The Challenge of the Modern Movement (with Hubert-Jan Henket, 010, 2001), Negotiating Domesticity. Spatial productions of gender in modern architecture (with Gulsum Baydar, Routledge, 2005) and The SAGE Handbook Architectural Theory (with Greig Crysler and Stephen Cairns, Sage, 2012). She regularly publishes in journals such as The Journal of Architecture and Home Cultures.




How to Cite

Pombo Fátima, Wouter Bervoets, and Hilde Heynen. 2011. “Inhabitation As a process:: Theoretical Frameworks for Analysing Interiors”. Idea Journal 11 (1):112-21.



Design Research Paper