On September 21, 2011 the students of VAH 3387F 001: Modernism and Interior Design were presented with a hypothetical situation where they were asked to make a last minute contribution to an online blog focused on modern interiors. The students were assigned one of five spaces on the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and Brescia University College campuses in London, ON, and, within the space of a week, were asked to visit, photograph and write a blog entry which critically examined the assigned space.
The assignment was for a course that examines the work of certain interior designers whose work has been closely associated with modern movements in the visual arts. In particular, it considers those designers who developed an all-encompassing aesthetic rather than designing individual objects. The focus is on developments from 1850 until the present including the aesthetic movement, arts and crafts, early twentieth century avant-garde designers in Europe and America, art deco, Scandinavian modernism, pop, postmodernism and green/sustainable design.
The purpose of this particular assignment was threefold. The first intention was to have students produce something within a tight timeline, one week, to simulate a work environment. The second objective was to have students visit areas of the campus that they might have travelled through any number of times, but, on this occasion, they were to look at the space differently in order to critically assess how it functions both within the building and the larger context of the campus. By “rediscovering” these special spaces of everyday life, we want to foreground the important role design plays in shaping our world. Because this assignment was given at the beginning of the course, it forced students to articulate their own experience of design and space rather than continually falling back on canonical examples. The point was to give young writers a sense of agency and personal responsibility by developing a critical blog entry that differs from the often optimistic or congratulatory tone of the curatorial essay or detached voice of the research paper. The final aim of this assignment was to help make the UWO and Brescia campuses more accessible to a broad range of people. From the start, the students were given the option to submit their blogs for virtual publication on the Internet so they tried to find ways of luring members of the university community and general public to visit these spaces, virtually and physically.
Bridget Elliott (Professor) and Julia Krueger (Teaching Assistant and PhD Candidate)