For centuries, interior design has been part and parcel of architecture. It is only within the past 50 years or so that interior design has become a discipline in its own right and that the interior designer has become a recognized professional. The rise of the professional interior designer corresponds to the rise of the mega structure. Huge complexes, commercial fit outs filled with hundreds of offices which will be leased to occupants with varying space and functional design requirements, make it virtually impossible for the building architects to be involved with the defining of interior space.
The major reason architects no longer do a great deal of interior design is that the user is often unknown to the architect,” says Regina architect Clifford Wiens. Interior designers have specialized in completing anonymous space for users who are identified later.”
Wiens gives the example of the Gothic cathedral to illustrate the close relationship between architecture and interior design. In the Gothic cathedral, exterior and interior design integrated: each is an essential and integral part of the other. It’s a concept that has contemporary validity as well. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Regina Broadcast Centre which was designed by Wiens, is a structure whose interior design is integral to its exterior. It is an example of a total design concept.
But the trend today is for entrepreneurs or developers to commission architects to design what amounts to an exterior shell or envelope. The completion of the interior is left to a later date, and is dependent upon the needs and wants of the various occupants of the building.
Enter the interior designer.
A well-designed office is one that successfully meets the needs of the user,” says Daphne Bowering, interior designer with Bowering, Charbonneau and Associates in Regina.
Good office design creates an environment that is compatible with the type of business being conducted. It presents an image of the business to the public, and it makes a statement about the personalities of the businesspeople involved. It also considers the psychology of space and takes into account the dynamics of the workplace. It creates an atmosphere conducive to efficiency. And there are studies to show that an appropriately designed office can actually increase office efficiency and worker productivity.
An office like the one portrayed on television’s Remington Steel, even though it is a set design, may serve as an example of just how much the appearance of an office can say about its occupants.
The design projects an image at once solid and dependable but just a little bit racy with its grey and red color scheme. Metallic accents underline the hard-edge business in which Remington Steele Investigations is involved, and are a not-so-subtle pun on the name of the business. (The characters themselves display off-beat senses of humor.)
Greenery every where says Steele’s is a very contemporary office. The large space says the business is successful. Clean lines in the furniture and in the rest of the decor say that people involved are logical and are clear thinkers.
The overall effect is up-to-the-minute, sophisticated and tastefully flamboyant. Yet esthetics are only one aspect of successful office design. The other aspect, and the one that is usually more important to interior designers, is making the best use of space in terms of function and efficiency. It is this concern which generally separates interior designers from interior decorators.
Interior decorators orchestrate space. Interior designers create it,” says Suzanne Fullmann, interior designer with Supreme Office Products Limited in Regina.
Creating a space is a complex process. It requires an analysis of the physical qualities of the space, the needs of the occupants of the office and the nature of the business. The process begins with a programming stage, which among other things, analyzes communication and paper flows, examines the working relationship between positions or departments, and determines traffic patterns and the amount of space needed to carry out various office functions effectively and efficiently.
Often, a designer begins with only a space enclosed by four bare walls and pierced by a couple of support columns. The only guide is the designer’s own design concept, based on interviews with the client and results of detailed requirement studies, to turn it into a comfortable, efficient workspace.
Turning concept into reality requires precision and planning. It means the designer has to plot size and area needs by sketching circles on the floor plate, simulating how much space each employee needs in which to work efficiently and determining where each office function should take place in order to maximize efficiency.