School at the Art Institute of Chicago: The Rise of Multidisciplinary Design


In 2006, School at the Art Institute of Chicago introduced a Masters of Architecture with Emphasis in Interior Architecture . Unique among professional degrees, it starts with a focus on interiority then prepares students for architectural licensing. Current student Charlie Klecha applied to the program because the crossover appealed to him. “I believe that we as designers are becoming gradually more multidisciplinary, not just across fields like architecture and interior design, but also into fields like graphic design and lighting design,” he says.

Klecha, who does not plan to follow a traditional practice path, is interested is in the use of architectural lighting and emerging digital media in interior design, and in architecture in general, as communicative tools. He says schools like SAIC, Parsons and SCI-Arc are producing broad-based designers capable of changing the way the entire practice thinks, allowing to develop skills across a wide range of contemporary design practices.

“The time for specialists has passed, and the job market of today is demanding people with unique combinations of skill sets and experiences,” says Klecha.

CindyColeman Introduced in 2007 and revised in 2011, "Nodes, Networks, and Interactivity in Practice” is a required class for all SAIC's Masters of Architecture students, regardless of concentration. Students write scripts for the changing states and environmental conditions that are necessary or desirable inside a building, and how the inhabitants of a building might actively or passively control those states.

The behavioral scripts are converted into machine language, so students can construct a working model of the nervous system of a space that knows how to partner with its inhabitants. “It is very exciting,” says Cindy Coleman , the program's director and design strategist at Gensler . “It builds on the native social technology savvy of the newest generation of designers.”

Klecha says the class focuses on the technology behind spatial interactivity. “As technology becomes a more and more integrated facet of interior design, classes like this will become  core curriculum in training new designers to use the full breadth of tools at their disposal.”

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