Negotiating the Perils and Pleasures of Interiority


  • Sarah Treadwell University of Auckland




Interiority, Spatial design, Interior architecture


Words and pictures are ubiquitous, inhaled with morning coffee and exhaled in conversations, skype encounters and daily life. It might be argued that navigating between the visual and the written always involves an oscillation, a turning between variably activated modes that both depend upon and deny each other. On the relationship between words, the visual and their manoeuvres, an impressive array of scholarly analysis has been undertaken, with careful shifts, Manichean separations and precise nuances. But words and images do not occupy a general condition and instead can be understood to operate in cartels, organizations and cultures; relations between words and pictures are played out in bureaucratic structures and strictures, constrained in informational science and institutional habits particular to social and cultural groups.1

Within building and design cultures writing is often treated in an instrumental fashion (albeit subject to specific disciplinary codes), and is frequently attached to a picturing of a spatial condition, the image illustrating the import of the text. At times design writing is abbreviated, caption, notation or signature, and picturing can also be as abstract as code, measurement or diagram; each mode produces conditions of design predisposed by their discipline. Unlike other disciplines, interiority is uneasily placed in relationship to its traditional representation; perspectives attached to a drawing set, the flythrough running past the client, might be described as superfluous, excessive or unnecessary. Historical anxiety around three-dimensional interior imagery, the so- called meretriciousness of 19th century perspectives, continues with contemporary accusations alleging the triteness of rendered digital images.

Perhaps, however, it is the references that such interior representations make to life beyond the drawing set, beyond the instructional documents, that is disturbing. Interiority is attached to socially and culturally selected manifestations of power, gender, labour and materiality and when these conditions emerge in images of interiority, drawn or written, there is the potential to amplify or undermine usual disciplinary concerns. The moment of impropriety, the sore point, that seems to collect around images of interiority (written and drawn), might be, in part, because conventional representational systems tend to fail the full circumstances of interiority, collecting instead picturesque or conventional forms and resisting the complexity of the condition.


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Author Biography

Sarah Treadwell, University of Auckland

Sarah Treadwell is an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at The University of Auckland. Her research investigates the representation of architecture in colonial and contemporary images. Her work proceeds with both writing and image making and considers representations of motels, suburbs and volcanic conditions of ground. She also has a long-standing interest in gender related issues in architecture. Sarah has published in various books and journals including Architectural Theory Review, Architectural Design, Space and Culture and Interstices. Her book Revisiting Rangiatea was the outcome of participation in the Gordon H Brown Lecture Series in 2008.




How to Cite

Treadwell, Sarah. 2012. “Writing/Drawing:: Negotiating the Perils and Pleasures of Interiority”. Idea Journal 12 (1):2-9. https://doi.org/10.37113/ideaj.v0i0.89.