Academix- Interior Designer-June 2006-Issue 11
The French call it ”Interior Architecture”
by Paul Cochrane
Several universities offer degrees in interior design in Lebanon, so Academix selected one of the country’s leading programs to find out about the discipline, admissions and work prospects.
nterior design is a fast-paced discipline in tune with the modern world. Creative, expressive and continuously changing, interior design is all about the effective use of space. But when it comes to recognition, interior designers are often sorely underappreciated by society, says Elie Haddad, Assistant Dean of the School of Engineering and Architecture at the Lebanese American University (LAU). “Interior design is not appreciated or recognized here in Lebanon, or in other parts of the world. Unless you are at the top you are not rewarded for the time invested, especially money wise,” says Haddad. That said, among certain sectors of society there is a growing awareness of the importance of interior design for working environments, restaurants, bars, shops and residences. “Interior design is not all about the insides of buildings, with designers
Academix- Interior Designer-June 2006-Issue 11
Photos: Interior design studio project by 3rd year students: “Perfume shop in Gemmayzé” by Crystelle Martinos and Celine Fadous
working in industrial design, fashion, car design and product design,” he says. And with the construction boom largely over in countries like Lebanon, the focus has turned to renovating buildings. “If people became more ecologically orientated, interior design could become more important. An architect could rework a building, but so could an interior designer to make the interior contemporary and modern.” Haddad also believes that Beirut will become a major design center for the Middle East. “Milan, London, New York and Tokyo are the world’s design hubs, but Beirut could become a sub-centre and a regional hub,” he says. Architects are cottoning on to Beirut’s rising designer status, moving into the interior design field, particularly when fewer new buildings are springing up. Although interior designers have less responsibility that an architect, one step down in professional ranking, interior designers are still greatly in demand despite the competition. And despite many people considering interior design a woman’s profession, this is not the case, says Haddad. “Interior design is stereotypically seen as a woman’s profession, but ironically most top designers are men. Women are innately more attuned to space, creating atmosphere and relationships though,” he adds. Interior Architecture and Interior Design: Two sides of the same coin LAU’s programs, modeled on the American-style of curriculum, are taught at the seaside town of Byblos and at the larger Beirut campus. The two-year Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Interior Design is a basic introduction to the field of architecture and interior design (72 credits) covering 2D/3D images, visual theory, graphics, ceramics and photography. “Students are not meant to be designing a house, so the first year is intensive exposure to visual arts and afterwards a student knows what to focus on – architecture, graphic design or interior design,” he says. The three-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Interior Design can be turned into the (four-year) BA in Interior Architecture with an additional year of study. But exactly what is the difference between Interior Architecture and Interior Design? “The French call it Interior Architecture, as it sounds more prestigious,” says Haddad. “We want to have Interior Design as a BA and Interior Architecture as a BSc, but are facing problems in the US (where LAU is accredited),” he adds. The admissions process is quite lax in regard to artistic experience, Haddad concedes.
“We realize students are not given an arts education at school, so we don’t have a competition but set English and math exams. Once in, we see what a student is capable of.” Haddad has certain qualities he is looking for though. “Students have to be intelligent and determined. It is not easy. You need to have skill and talent. It doesn’t hurt to go and visit universities, meet students and talk to graduates.” Once in the program, faculty members are able to weed out the wheat from the chaff. “Some students really surprise you in how quickly they interact with the studio and the assigned projects. Other students realize that intellectually the program is not their cup of tea, so change majors.” Haddad says Interior Design is offered for people who want a degree but might not continue in the field. “Just to work in an office, stop there (at an Interior Design degree). The BA in Interior Architecture is more serious, but to become a professional you have to go for an MA,” he explains. The normal path for graduates, Haddad adds, involves working with a design agency for two years, such as in industrial design, and then studying for a master’s abroad in Italy, Britain or the US.