Dark Space 17

The Provocation DARK SPACE_ the interior

Reading Junichiro Tanizaki’s highly evocative essay ‘In Praise of Shadows’ (1977) has the effect of ‘switching on‘ more of the body’s physiological and psychological sensibilities. Tanizaki writes, for example, of listening to the sound of rain softly falling from the trees and seeping into the earth. He is listening from a toilet, where dim lighting and raw materials add to his aesthetic pleasure of this kind of place where he imagines that over the ages haiku poets have been inspired. Tanizaki prefers the ‘soft voice and the understatement’. He talks of ‘Orientals’’ love for ‘grime, soot’ and ‘peace and repose’ coming to those who occupy old houses with old objects. And of ‘Westerners’’ love for bright light and white surfaces as, for example in hospitals or dental surgeries – and he laments these places would be far less stressful were they muted in colour. He writes of the pleasure of being served soup in a lidded, dark coloured liquored bowl, then removing the lid and being unable to see the soup but feeling the gentle sway of the liquid, sensing the tantalizing release of the vapour and then anticipating the taste. Tanizaki writes of the ethereal quality of gold leaf, where in a dark room gold will attract and reflect the faintest glimmer of light, casting a slight glow thus revealing its presence. Slowing the human eye adjusting to the darkness of the room, will find the golden glow.

Much of Tanizaki’s essay generates universal resonance beyond that of the ‘Oriental’. We humans are lured by his gentle evocation of those moments, when our bodies are tuned-in to deeper layers of existence: an awareness of the self in the place of nature, time, the patina of accumulated dirt, the modesty of darkness and richness of light glimpsing. Time articulated through fragrance, texture, sound, temperature and vista. Space articulated through ritual.

Juhani Pallasmaa’s ‘The Thinking Hand’, alerts the reader to contemporary science’s assertion that the evolution of the human hand, its dexterity and learning capacity may well be the catalyst for the development of the human brain, an assertion that is the antithesis of previous beliefs. The hand, Pallasmaa writes, may well have played ‘a seminal role in the evolution of human intelligence, language and symbolic thought’. He understands the haptic experience of ‘touch’ to be the link between our interior sensations and the world we occupy. Even when we are unable to physically touch something, say for example ice, the sight of the ice will stimulate the sensation of touching the frozen water. Perhaps similar to Tanizaki, Pallasmaa writes about the body being the ‘sole locus of reference, memory, imagination and integration’ connecting us to the outside world.

Sir John Soanne’s folly – his house as museum – was inspired by Eighteenth Century southern Italian archaeological digs and probably Piranesi’s drawings of the same period. These real and fake relics from the past served to position and reiterate Soanne’s sense of self, and also his presentation of self to the outside world in relation to his agglomeration of objects. Natural light was as though staged to slowly reveal pieces over time, highlighting one after another, appearing and disappearing. They were sequenced in theatrical silent discourse one with another across time and realities. The performance of time, as it appears in his house, seems central to Soanne’s folly.

For Tanizaki, Pallasmaa, and Soane, the body embodies the outside world, the human sensorium internalises the exterior. Their works articulate the symbioses between dissimilar entities. And these symbioses catalyse awareness. Body Architect Lucy Mcrae’s experimental transdisciplinary work is now confronting boundaries with which symbioses must negotiate. Significantly, Mcrae re-calibrates bodily function, for example by manipulating the release of body odour; and sensation, for example, by manipulating ambient air pressure. Disciplines of the interior, including but not limited to spatial design, interior design, interior architecture, and contiguous disciplines work in different ways to manipulate how the human sensorium internalises the exterior, and therefore the occurrence of symbioses.

Registration of Interest:

We  invite interdisciplinary collaborations, calling on academics, practitioners and students to submit abstracts responding to the provocation below.
Authors are to submit a 300 word abstract via the online form:


IDEA journal_17 will be publish one submission per month online from July 2017 – June 2018
For more information about IDEA Journal here

Important deadlines/dates:

  • Initial call for abstracts 300 words: January 2017 to March 2017.
  • Deadline submission of abstracts for double blind peer refereeing March 30 2017.
  • Referee abstracts complete and advise authors by April 30 2017.
  • Submission of WORD COUNT: 5000-7000 (including Abstract and References) full draft for double blind peer refereeing by June 30 2017.
  • Double blind peer referee process: July 2017.
  • Notification to authors of acceptance/rejection July 2017.
  • Revisions by author(s) returned to Executive Editor from August 2017.
  • The IDEA Journal will now publish 10 submissions per edition in the form of one submission to be published online per month. This will enable the potential development of discourse between contributors within each particular provocation. Consequently, throughout the year, the Editors will consider for refereeing and publication, exceptionally high quality submissions. To be considered for publication, these additional manuscripts will necessarily be required to extend the discourse that is being generated by a particular edition’s provocation. This will enable the development of discourse between contributors within each particular provocation.
  • In addition, as described below, the Editors will also consider publication of letters submitted  throughout the year (more information to come).

DARK SPACE_ the interior – invites interdisciplinary collaborations, calling on academics, practitioners and students to submit abstracts responding to the provocation (outlined above).  

Submission categories:

DESIGN RESEARCH PAPERS: demonstrating development and engagement with interior design/interior architecture/spatial design history, theory, education, and practice through critique and synthesis with the focus on both speculative research and practice-based research.

REFEREED STUDIOS: presenting the nature and outcomes of refereed design studios, which have either been previously peer reviewed in situ, and/or critically discussed through text and imagery for the IDEA JOURNAL.

PROJECT REVIEWS: critically evaluating design-based works, which seek to expand the nature of spatial, temporal and theoretical practice in interior design/interior architecture/spatial design and associated disciplines.

VISUAL ESSAYS: demonstrating and presenting speculative research and practice-based research through visual media. For examples of visual essays please refer to previous issues of the IDEA JOURNAL – for example, the visual essay by Sara Bomans and Remco Roes ‘Nothing will come of nothing, speak again’ (http://idea-edu.com/journal/2013-idea-journal/).

BOOK & EXHIBITION REVIEWS: encouraging debate into the emerging literature dedicated to the expression and expansion of the theory and practice of interior design/interior architecture. 

LETTERS: Intended to encourage the development of discourse catalysed by the IDEA Journal’s monthly publication, the Editor will now consider letters for publication. Letters offer the opportunity to further engage in rigorous, evidence-based discourse formatted as an essay with a clearly identified position/purpose directly in relation to the discourse emerging through the IDEA Journal publications.

Formatting guidelines and publication standards for the full research paper, refereed studio, visual essay or project review are available online here.

For queries please contact Lynn Churchill (executive editor) via email l.churchill@curtin.edu.au