The Public Interior:
The meeting place for the urban and the interior
Keywords:Interior architecture, Interior design, Urban interior, Public interior
Architect Manuel de Sola?-Morales was one of the first designers to stress the importance of public interiors – places that are used as public spaces although they might belong to a private owner.1 Examples are libraries, hospitals or shopping malls. However, included within the concept of the public interior are also publicly owned spaces such as arcades, passages and inner courtyards, as well as collective outdoor public areas that provide shelter such as bus shelters (Figure1).These are spaces that Kristiaan Borret, the former city architect for Antwerp, describes as ‘secondary public spaces’. They differ from the so called ‘primary public spaces’, that is to say the actual streets, market places and squares.2 Complex interior environments are often subject to commercial logic or developer standards, factors that tend to make them less public. The layout of public interiors ought to be considered a challenging field of design and research, but this is not always the case. Where the ‘primary public space’, in particular, has long been the focus of research within the scholarly field of urban design and urbanism, existing research into public interiors proves to be fragmented. While ‘toolboxes’ for urban planners have been established, they lack the perspectives traditionally found in the field of interior architecture and interior design, such as user-relations, atmospheric variables and furniture design.Yet these considerations are particularly relevant to the conditions found within public interiors. Besides defining the term ‘public interior’, this paper aims to contribute to the development of an interdisciplinary design approach by exploring various methods for the analysis of ‘the public interior’ in the fields of urbanism, architecture, interior design and related academic fields.
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