In 1981, architect Nigel Coates described London's underground clubs as spaces that wilfully induce delirium. Introducing ideas of obscurity, uncertainty and the unknown into his analysis of these interior environments, Coates suggested that their darkened spaces disintegrated the certainty of walls and physical limitations. Instead, clubs enabled the inhabitants to cultivate each interior as an event — spaces made from the murky, intermingled experiences of London’s youth and the ‘dress-up box add-on aesthetic’ of their art-as-fashion lifestyles. Coates's comments heralded a decade of experimentation with interior environments that blurred disciplinary boundaries between art, design and fashion practices, and introduced ideas of shock, contradiction, fragmentation and ambiguity into interior planning, their drawings, and their performances.

This issue of idea journal: Uncertain Interiors sought theoretical, historical, and experimental analyses on the concept of uncertainty in interior environments. Uncertainty is often considered an undesirable quality, a transgression from normative behaviours and functions. Yet, uncertainty is inherent to critical and creative practices of spatial design. It underpins the complex experience inhabitants make with interior space beyond the designer's intention. History is replete with spectacular examples of designs, drawings and spatial practices that embrace the unknown to surpass the predictive, authoritative and determined limitations of their space-planning and programming.

Conversely, recent global events have plagued every aspect of daily life with the impact of uncertainty. Our ecological, economic, political and social spheres now compound instances of unanticipated, and sometimes devastating, change. Fear of uncertainty reveals the latent entrenchment of positivist and conservative values that limit our capacity to adapt with speed, flexibility and agility. Yet, if spatial designers embrace an uncertain relativism altogether, then what claims can they make to predict the real and material impact their work has on social change, political action, and environmental stewardship?

Recognising the significant and complex capacity of uncertainty to disrupt normative practices of design and inhabitation, authors were encouraged to address ideas of uncertain interiors for this journal issue in text-based and image-based research essays.


Published: 29.12.2023