The room has been evicted from the house

The 6th Modern Interiors Research Centre Conference was held at Kingston University last week. The focus was upon histories and heritage.


Among the interesting collection of papers was a description of the reconstruction of the Hotel de Ville in Paris. The speaker defined the difference between renovation and reconstruction as the same as that between a painting and it’s copy. This was followed by a detailed discussion of George III’s bed. Other topics included a description of the changes to Glasgow School of Art and the evolution of the Church of St Michael’s in Cropthorne, Wiltshire. Sally Stone, with her co-author, Graeme Brooker presented a paper that discussed the remodelling of contaminated buildings.

Fred Scott, the eminent interiors theorist presented the final keynote address, “The room, its demise and possible resurrection”. This was based upon research that he’d conducted with Robin Evans and it discussed how in the 18C, the interior and the exterior of a building could exist independently. Modernism, and with it the pursuit of transparency, has lead to this difference has becoming unobtainable: “The room has been evicted from the house”.

Artex supplied the pink champagne

From Acoustics to Zoomorphic

…via Fabio Novembre.


CiA staffer Sally Stone has, along with her perennial collaborator Graeme Brooker and newbie Michael Coates, produced The Visual Dictionary of Interior Architecture and Design. It’s a cutely packaged book that is intended to inform and inspire. And, of course, the pictures are more prominent than the words. Except, strangely, on the cover.

More CiA books

Ben Kelly: Off the peg


This month’s issue of AD Magazine, Interior Atmospheres, contains an article by CiA staffer Sally Stone with her regular co-author Graeme Brooker. The piece, entitled “Off the Peg: The Bespoke Interiors of Ben Kelly” was based upon an interview with the designer and discusses the qualities of the interiors that he creates.

In response to our opening discussion about the general perception of interiors practice and education, Kelly introduces himself as ‘an old fashioned interior designer’. He describes the subject as something that has integrity far beyond just surface consideration and he regards it as something that is ‘very close to architecture, but its not architecture’, that actually has little to do with surface treatment, but has its basis in the manipulation and control of space. He explains that the starting point for any project is in the analysis and understanding of the unique qualities of the existing space, and suggests that there is a resonating element that springs from the original building that is crucial for the development of the project. This interpretive attitude can be traced back to the work of the well known interior architect, Carlo Scarpa, although of course with vastly different visual results.

‘When I get the plan then this is when the project begins. We sit around the table and discuss what it’s telling us, what’s possible, what can we keep and what has to go,’ says Kelly. The site-specific qualities of the existing building that can be teased out and repossessed in the transformation of a space are one of the major sources of atmosphere in his work. It is from these readings that the process of organisation and assembly can begin. Kelly could be accused of not really doing very much; the basic spaces are relatively unaltered, many of the finishes are pre-existing and the new bits are very much the same as the old. He makes it look too easy. But that is exactly the point – he liberates the existing, not just in the way the space is exposed and manipulated, but also, and most importantly, the manner in which the new elements, insertions and materials echo the existing qualities.

Ben Kelly Design


Pictures: (Top) Ben Kelly in his studio, photo by Graeme Brooker; (Bottom) article page featuring The Hacienda, Manchester (now destroyed).

Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation

The designer can create small valuable elements within a much larger composition that can affect the quality of a much larger space. Within the hot climate of Mallorca, Rafael Moneo has used the natural qualities of light and water to create an atmosphere of coolness and character.moneo.jpgThe architect delicately placed the foundation building between the almond grove that spreads out over the slope below the building and the artist’s studio, which occupied the space immediately next to the road. The building is composed of a star-like volume to hold the collection and a linear element, which contains the service areas, the entrance and the schoolrooms. There is a very tense relationship between these two contrasting elements. The long thin building is placed on slightly higher ground than the splintered building; stairs within the foyer offer access to the lower gallery areas. This slight disconnection is emphasised by the pools of water, one of which is actually placed upon the roof of the lower building. The landscaping also reinforces this difference, the upper level is organised in an orthogonal manner, while the lower gardens are as dynamic as the star-like building. The upper rectangular building has integrated into it, a south-facing colonnade and from here the visitor has a magnificent view over the top of the gallery, across the island to the sea. This arcade also acts to help cool the building. This slender out-side space shades the enclosed rooms, therefore reducing solar gain. The narrow shape encourages air movement, thus creating a slight wind, which again aids cooling. This is supported by the louvers within the top half of the façade, they also stimulate air movement by encouraging the hot air to speed up as it rises through them. The pool of water directly below this area provides cooler air to replace this, and thus a small isolated stack effect is created. The movement of the water enhances the quality of the atmosphere, as it ripples, it is reflected onto the underside of the colonnade and into the interior space. A small detail that creates a beautiful and effective environment.Name: Pilar and Joan Miró FoundationLocation: Palma de MallorcaDate: 1993Designer: Rafael Moneo

Church Of Christ Scientist, Manchester

This triple height chapel has been carved from the lower floors of a banal office block on Peter Street in Manchester. The large room or volume is surrounded by circulation space, through which shines natural light. The long light from the west shines directly into the chapel in the evening. At ground floor level, at the front of the building, the designers have manipulated the barely double height space to accommodate a reception and bookshop with a tiny reading room.

OMI Architects, Manchester 1998

St Paul’s Church and Community Centre

St Paul’s Church and Community Centre, London England, Matthew Lloyd Architects, 2004


The church at Bow is a collection of assorted elements gathered together in one building. It is modestly gothic (1878) with a cylindrical three-storey bell tower, very large pointed windows and clerestory lights, and an open nave. The ceiling over the chancel is highly decorated, the gold ribs run into the cast-iron columns, which are positioned centrally in front of pilasters between the windows within the white painted walls. It appears that the brick walls of the nave were once also painted white, but these have been allowed to peel and fade. The pews are placed around the raised altar and the organ is positioned against a blocked-up arch.

Into this mixture Matthew Lloyd Architects have inserted a two-storey steel and timber structure. It is raised high into the vaulted ceiling of the church to leave the chancel and the nave free for worship. The front of this bold curved wooden structure is supported by four enormous white painted Y-shaped steel columns, which just stand among the pews. The rear is connected to a white rectangular box of a quite different nature, and contained within this is the meeting room and stairs to the gallery, gym, and community rooms at first and second levels. The building has been split three-dimensionally into two L-shaped sections. The church occupies the L at the front and ground level and the community use the L at the top and back of the building. The language of the new is quite different to that of the old, but then, each area is an assemblage of different styles, components and functions, the solution of which seems to work.

Photo by G.J. Brooker