The Ecology of Occupation

Michael Trudgeon is an industrial designer, media designer, architect and lecturer at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), presented the sixth Interior and Spatial Design lecture. Trudgeon is the co-founder and principal designer of Crowd Productions, a trans-disciplinary network of designers and consultants who research and explore the potential of new ideas, materials and technology. His lecture was about the Ecology of Occupation, looking at the history of occupation, the concept of the envelope of occupation and provided examples to explain these ideas. He discussed how house design has changed in the way that spaces within homes are considered. His concept that “Form is a verb” was used to argue that form should be considered as an action rather than a noun, that is an object.

Houses and buildings were originally designed from the outside-in, meaning that the exterior was the most important and the interior had little consideration, merely contained by the external form. However, during the Renaissance period in France, this was reversed, with buildings starting to be designed from the inside-out.  This created a change in thinking from the ‘figure ground’ concept to the ‘ground figure,’ that is, the interior (ground) became the focus over the exterior (figure). The “form is derived because it is active.” This allowed for the program to dictate the space in terms of what is required of the space to enable certain activities to occur (for example the size of the space and the relationship of a room to the rest of the building). Trudgeon described this process as “Designing as a series of volumes that articulate a program.” This was important to the French, as social forms and relationships were a vital part of society during this time.

In Paris, hotels (coming from the French word ‘otel’) were city chateaus built around a courtyard on three sides. This created what is known as ‘poche’ or pocket space. These spaces acted like social stabilisers, as they were places where people would meet. This is very different to our perception of hotels these days.

The concept of buildings being designed from the inside out can also be seen in the modernist period, particularly in Le Corbusier’s “Villa Shodhan”. Corbusier aimed to use a series of concrete slabs to “wrap space in activity.” The result was an energetic form with a free façade. This design is a clear example of program being the sole informer of the structure. Therefore, “Form is a verb.”

Le Corbusier’s “Villa Shodhan” http://www.panoramio.com/photo/10541700

Trudgeon also used the example of The Blur Pavilion by Diller and Scofidio, an installation for the Swiss Expo in 2002, which was about the experience (of walking through ‘clouds’), not the appearance of the structure.

The Blur Pavilion by Diller and Scofidio http://dmueller.deviantart.com/art/Swiss-EXPO-02-490867

As interior designers we are also set designers, we identify and shape roles. Because of this, it is vital to speak to the people who are going to be in, live in or work in the space. Trudgeon simply describes, “It is important as designers to know what you’re designing for.” This is included in the design brief that we work from today.

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