What is Interior Architecture?

Interior Architecture (IA) is the spatial art of environmental design, form, and practice, interior architecture is the process through which the interiors of buildings are designed. It is concerned with all aspects of the human uses of structural spaces. Put simply, Interior Architecture is the design of an interior in architectural terms. An altered building may look the same on the exterior, but its interior may be completely different spatially. Today, there is greater emphasis on the sustainability of the design and consciously thinking of the environment. This affects the materials being sourced- energy use, site selection, water usage, and material selection.

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Interior Architecture vs. Interior Design

The field of interior architecture shares a lot with interior design and decorating. Students of both fields learn to design comfortable, safe, and useful indoor spaces, from downtown penthouses to high school classrooms. However, the interior architecture major typically focuses on architecture and construction. You will learn more than just artistic concerns. You will understand the art of choosing which style of furnishings works well in an open floor plan. You’ll also learn about technical issues, such as seismic retrofitting (making old buildings safe from earthquakes).

Experienced architects and interior designers (not the same as interior “decorators”) are qualified to create/design spaces that solve problems for homeowners. The primary way they do this is through spatial design and planning. The function of an Interior Designer is to change the parts of a home that do not interfere with its actual structure. A designer may also specialize in a particular area of the interior, for example, kitchens, bathrooms, or lighting. The IA looks at the big picture, taking into account safety issues, building codes, and other considerations within the layout.

Bachelor’s Degree

There are undergraduate degrees in Interior Architecture, Interior Design and a combination of the two. In addition, there are degrees in Interior Architecture combined with Architecture. Here is a look at some of these choices.

Bachelor of Interior Architecture & Design (BFA) Degree

A BFA curriculum integrates theory, design, and technology in tandem with the standards of the industry. Students develop the requisite intellectual, artistic, and ethical abilities necessary for professional practice. This is attained through a diverse curriculum covering art history through the 15th Century to Color Fundamentals in semester two. Topics in the latter course l include components of color, desaturation of color, color psychology, advancing/ receding color, simultaneous contrast, color proportion, the influence of light temperature on color, and design principles. By semester six, you study sustainable design. You learn about the impact of design on the environment, and of ways to conserve and protect it.

This particular program is 132 units of which there are 42 major units, 36 core, 45 liberal arts, and 9 electives. Vital to the degree are courses in written communication, cultural ideas and influences, and quantitative literacy. The program introduces and builds upon critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving, written communication, art historical awareness, historical awareness, cultural awareness, research, and information gathering.

Bachelor of Interior Architecture/Architecture

By combining the two disciplines, it takes longer than a typical four-year program. However, at the end of five years and one summer of study, you can earn your Bachelor of Interior Architecture and a Bachelor of Architecture degree. This dual degree format can increase the number of hours up to 172 hours. With a focus on architecture, there will be more science and mathematics courses integrated into the curriculum. Coursework includes General Physics, Algebra & Trigonometry or Calculus, Structures II (steel), and Materials.

Bachelor of Science in Interior Architecture

Another option is a Bachelor of Science in Interior Architecture degree that focuses on the design of architectural interiors. The coursework concentrates on sustainability, materiality, color theory, lighting, and the social and cultural aspects of habitable space. A program may consist of 132 semester hours, inclusive of 77 semester hours of Interior Architecture and Architecture courses.

Again, the courses in an interior architecture program have more in common with architecture than an interior design degree. This B.S. program has courses in college algebra, precalculus, and general physics. If you prefer to avoid mathematics and physics, then the interior design degree is a better option.

In contrast, a bachelor’s degree in interior design emphasizes the aesthetics and processes relevant to the built structure. It covers both residential and nonresidential interior environments. In addition, some schools include the study of the history of World Architecture and Design, the coursework concentrates on residential materials, lighting, and 3-D modeling.

State License

There is one important consideration regarding your decision as to which degree to take. All interior architects need a B.Arch. or M.Arch. degree from a program that has been approved by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). This is a mandatory prerequisite to apply for a state license. Before you can call yourself an architect, you have to earn a license by completing your state’s specific requirements. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) recommends the standards for the 54 licensing boards, which then issue licenses to applicants who meet their specific registration requirements.