Material Culture: History, Theory, and Criticism

critique of benches on display at the JSMA

Design theory incorporates the physical language of space with the study of society, culture, and technology throughout history to inform our work as designers today. Interior Architecture faculty examine and analyze the built environment through a wide variety of theoretical frameworks and share their scholarship with students throughout the curriculum.

Research is supported by the Design Library (with 86,000 bound volumes, 2,700 periodical titles, a substantial rare books collection supported by the Marion Dean Ross Endowment, artists’ books, architectural drawings, photos, and electronic resources), and the Knight Library (with 22,000 titles in art and architecture). The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA) houses extensive collections of decorative art and offers faculty and students an opportunity to study and participate in exhibitions. In addition, faculty and students actively mine the rich architectural archive of Portland (two hours away by car or train) including the John Yeon Center, incorporating the historic Watzek house.

Core Faculty

Assistant Professor Solmaz Kive researches the political dimension of the built environment architecture at the scales of the building, the interior, and the object. She examines projects, representations, and theories of design in relation to the practices of identity. Her research on museums and exhibitions explores how subconscious ideas of the self (and its others) are constructed through the building layout, the gallery decoration, the arrangement of the object, etc. A related area of her research explores the theme of otherness in architectural historiography (i.e. the way the history, as a narrative of the past, is composed and represented). Throughout her research she uses tools of Digital Humanities for mapping, data analyses, and visualization. Solmaz teaches the required history sequence and design studio. Her teaching reflects her research into socio-political norms and how they form, and are formed by, our experience within the space.

Faculty from departments across the College of Design and the University contribute to students’ understanding.

Faculty in the School of Architecture & Environment who impact interiors students include:

Professor James Tice’s research and practice investigate topics in architectural and urban history and theory in both contemporary and historic contexts. His recent work focuses on “micro-urbanism” by examining the interface between architecture and urban design. His works in Digital Humanities include web-based publications that allow interactive understanding of Rome as a series of layers from antiquity to the present. Professor Tice teaches the required course in Spatial Composition.

Career Instructor Tom Bonamici’s research and practice blend historic wood construction techniques (such as working green wood) with contemporary furniture design. Interior Architecture furniture design studios examine and respond to JSMA collections.

Multiple faculty in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture share their research with students through art and architecture history courses. Learn more about the Department of the History of Art and Architecture faculty research interests.