On “East Coast Public Interior Spaces” 1
Meral Ekincioglu, Ph.D.
SAHARA guest editor (January 2023)
The SAH-Historic Interiors Affiliate Group-Research Committee member
“East Coast Public Interior Spaces” offers a visual and diverse perspective on interior design as a part of the mission of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), Historic Interiors, Affiliate Group to foster scholarly inquiry on historic interiors and its historiography within and beyond SAH. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been accelerated discussions on interior design with urgent issues, such as public health considerations, climate emergency, indoor environment quality, living conditions of underserved people, etc., 2 inclusive and diverse scholarship with history, theory and criticism on this discipline and its interdisciplinary engagements with relevant fields, its teaching and pedagogy merit a considerable attention more than ever. In this regard, it is also the time to re-consider historical documentation practice and methods on interior design through an intersectional understanding (of urgent pandemic issues) and in collaboration among archivists, curators, research and teaching communities with measurable results. 3 For this endeavor, photography can be seen as a powerful and reliable medium in terms of its ability to create exact visual records of interiors. With these concerns and an emphasis on “public” dimension of (historic) interiors, these published photographs by SAHARA aim to bring some questions into the focus: For instance, with the rising impact of technology in our life with this pandemic, what can be its potential(s) to design an interior space as an interface between its (research and teaching) community and its public visitors (like the new MIT Museum)? Or, how can we design today’s climate responsive public interior space by reducing its use of energy while considering its physical environment comfort for active social engagement of its users (like the Northeastern University Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex)? Or, how can a public interior space function for the interaction of its diverse groups and community while maintaining its neutral and welcoming design vocabulary for all (like the Northeastern University Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service, Multi-Faith Center)?, etc.
Trained as an architect in Istanbul, a scholar with Ph.D. in architecture his/herstory, and an active member of the Society of Architectural Historians, my first questions on interior his/herstories began to rise during my early visits to interior spaces of buildings designed by inventive architect Sinan (c. 1490-1588).4 The COVID-19 lockdown has deeply triggered my questions on this discipline, and the lack of data on historic interiors in the published Society of Architectural Historians Data Report has motivated me to put my efforts into the mission of the SAH-Historic Interiors Affiliate Group as its Research Committee member. 5 I wish my questions and concerns behind this SAHARA publication could stimulate concrete actions for inclusive, diverse and multidisciplinary documentation, data collection and new contributions to SAHARA on historic interiors to support teaching and research communities in the field. 6
I would like to express my thanks to Associate Professor Paula Lupkin, founding chair of the SAH, Historic Interiors Affiliate Group and Associate Professor Anca Lasc, its former secretary for their kind invitation to me to serve on their Research Committee; Mark Hinchman and Jackie Spafford, SAHARA co-editors for this publication.
1.See “East Coast Public Interior Spaces” published by SAHARA, https://www.sah.org/about-sah/news/news-detail/2023/01/11/sahara-highlights-east-coast-public-interior-spaces, last accessed on 2.9.2023.
2. For instance, see a recent book, Sparke, P., Ioannidou, E., Kirkham, P., Knott, S., Scholze, J., 2023, Interiors in the Era of Covid-19: Interior Design between the Public and Private Realms, Bloomsbury Publishing, available on February 23, 2023 https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/interiors-in-the-era-of-covid-19-penny-sparke/1141397961, last accessed on 2.9.2023.
3. As I submitted to “the Historic Interiors, Affiliate Group” on August 30, 2022, the first step of my systematic research on archives at some leading interior design programs in the U.S. has revealed substantial gaps at the intersection of historic interiors and urgent pandemic issues (such as climate emergency, public health, social justice, underrepresented and underserved communities, etc.).
4. See in-depth, systematic historical and theoretical analyses of architecture buildings designed by architect Sinan with their historic interiors, Necipoglu, G., 2005, the Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire, Princeton University Press.
5. SAH Data Project Report, Architectural History in the United States: Findings and Trends in Higher Education, prepared by the SAH Data Project Core Team, 2021, Society of Architectural Historians, Chicago, IL, https://www.sah.org/docs/default-source/default-document-library/sah-data-report-book-final_digital.pdf, last accessed on 2.9.2023.
6. I also thank “SAH Archipedia” for publishing my “781” architectural and interior photographs to support research and teaching communities in these disciplines. See for their SAH Archipedia links; http://meralekincioglu.com/12-publication.html