IDEA Journal 2013: Unbecoming (Oct 2012)

IDEA JOURNAL 2013: *Unbecoming*
Guest Editor: Ed Hollis
Deadline for submission of Expression of Interest: 21 October 2012

The forthcoming issue of the IDEA Journal calls for contributions in the form scholarly essays, visual essays and theorized creative practice on the topic of Unbecoming.


Designing interiors is the process, we say, of finding a place for everything, and putting everything in its place. Alberti claimed that ‘Beauty is that reasoned harmony of all the parts within a body, so that nothing may be added, taken away, or altered, but for the worse…’ (Leone Battista Alberti)

But it shouldn’t be, and it never is for long; and Bruce Mau replied, in his Incomplete Manifesto for designers: ‘Make Mistakes Faster.’

We want to know about:

Interiors from the past that went wrong, are broken or disappeared.
Interiors from the present that are ugly and useless.
Interiors from the future we haven’t planned.
Comedies and satires, but above all, Tragedies

Once upon a time, interiors were rooms: enclosed aesthetic – and therefore ethical – systems. Marie Antoinette pressed the button in her boudoir, and the windows were replaced with mirrors, excluding completely the uncertainty of the world outside the room, and replacing it with the perfection of her own reflection.

But when the revolutionaries dragged the Queen away, they left the door ajar, broke the locks, and smashed the mirrors, destroying the visual and moral coherence of the room. They did it in the name of liberty, for an enclosed room, in which everything has been considered, which dictates to its occupants exactly how it should be used, permits of no freedom.

It is ironic that the modernist architects who vandalised the formal integrity of the room: Frank Lloyd Wright, who took away its comforting corners, Mies, who dissolved its walls into glass and polished onyx, and Le Corbusier, who turned it into an incident on a promenade, were determinists who believed that their formal games could predict and provoke the aesthetics and ethics of behaviour.

The room has passed into history and has become ideologically impossible.

This is something the insurgents of the Arab Spring know as they trash the leopardskin Louis Quinze of their masters, and it is something of which even the curators of Versailles are aware: last year they refurnished the old royal apartments with contemporary furniture for a month or two, despite the inevitable catcalls.

Interiors only grant their occupants freedom if it they are incomplete – either in space (deprived of enclosure, violated) or time (wrecked,collaged, rearranged, redecorated). Only then are their occupants obliged to complete them, to take an aesthetic, and therefore ethical, stance. A broken chair in an untidy room reminds us that freedom is not a right, or a luxury, it is the obligation to think, act, and participate.

And freedom requires us to engage with (but not to accept) all sorts of infelicities, for the incompleteness that grants it is, of its nature, unbecoming. It’s an ugly word: a negative, the disintegration of a state of being; but it’s a necessary negative: Interiors are misused, they fall apart, they are forgotten – because we live in them.

Designing interiors is the process, we were taught once upon a time, of finding a place for everything, and putting everything in its place; but it isn’t that, and never was. Interiors are always unbecoming, and their fragmentary arrangements invite rearrangement and fragmentation all the time. Their nature is liberty.

This issue of the journal invites interdisciplinary collaborations with landscapists, geographers, gardeners, and other lovers of the changing environment of life as well as politicians, anthropologists and theologians: papers, projects and reviews that explore the emerging consideration of the ethics of the interior: how does, or could, the interior provoke, rather than dictate, behaviours and responses? How can design make its users neither its objects, nor its subjects, but its citizens?

This is a call for unbecoming meditations on the interior: ugly images, and stories about things that went wrong. It is provocation for provocations. This is a proposal for an issue of IDEA, in which we explore the liberating wrongness of interiors, and the ways in which it can foster incomplete knowledge, the willingness to make mistakes, and the ethics of freedom of enquiry.



that demonstrate development and engagement with interior design/interior architecture history, theory, education and practice through critique and synthesis. The focus is on the documentation and critical review of both speculative research and practice-based research


that represent 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.


that critically evaluate design-based works which seek to expand the nature of spatial and theoretical practice in interior design/interior architecture and associated disciplines.


that demonstrate critical, pictorial responses to design conditions.


to encourage debate into the emerging literature dedicated to the expression and expansion of the theory and practice of interior design/interior architecture.


Authors are invited to register their interest in submitting a paper on the form following and forward by email to the Executive Editor, Rachel Carley by 21 October 2012. Registration of interest is not refereed. The acknowledgement of registration facilitates development of a proposal to full research paper, refereed studio or project review by providing formatting guidelines and publication standards to registrants.


Important deadlines/dates:

Call for contributions: 17 August
Registration of interest including 50 word abstract and image if appropriate due by 21 October 2012
Acknowledgement by 25 October 2012
Submit full draft for review by 28 February 2013
Peer-review: March-April 2013
Notification by 5 July 2013
Revisions returned by 5 August 2013
Journal published early 2014 with 2013 date


Edward Hollis studied Architecture at Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities. For the subsequent six years he practiced as an Architect. He worked first in Sri Lanka, in the practice of Geoffrey Bawa, at that time the ‘grand old man’ of Sri Lankan Architecture, famous for his garden of follies and ruins at Lunuganga; and then in the practice of Richard Murphy, well known for his radical alterations to ancient and historic buildings in and around Edinburgh.

In 1999, Edward Hollis began lecturing in Interior Architecture at Napier University, Edinburgh, working with students both in the design studio, and in more theoretical disciplines. In 2004, he moved to Edinburgh College of Art, where he is now director of research in the School of Design.

Working with follies and ruins in Sri Lanka, with modern interventions to historic buildings in Scotland, and in the notoriously slippery discipline of Interiors, has focussed Edward’s research and theoretical thinking on the notion of time, story, and building.

Edward Hollis is currently working on a number of research projects. He is involved with current plans to revive the ruins of Gillespie Kidd and Coia’s seminary at Cardross. His first book, ‘The Secret Lives of Buildings’: a collection folk tales stories about mythical buildings was published in 2009; and he is currently writing ‘The Memory Palace’ a book of lost Interiors.

The IDEA JOURNAL is published by IDEA (Interior Design / Interior Architecture Educators Association)
ACN 135 337 236

About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: