Interior design is an important part of any structure and this has been increasingly recognised in recent years thanks to demographic transition taking place in India and also increasing level of standard of living. Though design has been a part of our civilization which is reflected in our rich treasury of heritages, the concept of interior design in India is still loosely defined leading often to confusion and misuse. This in turn has often brought bad name to the noble profession.
Take the case of Kamala Mills tragedy. When fire claimed 14 lives last year in a restaurant in Kamala Mills in Mumbai, the BMC probe held the architect and interior designers of 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro responsible for the blaze. Though the matter is sub-judiced now, BMC Commissioner’s investigation mainly pointed fingers at the interior designer and held him responsible for converting the restaurant into fire traps. It was also pointed out that while architects were required to be registered with the BMC, there was no such need for interior designers.
According to an Interior Designer who has done several BMC projects “the greatest tragedy of our profession is, no one knows who can/should be an interior designer. This lack of clarity has often led to many fly-by-night operators entering the profession and spoiling its reputation.” It is interesting to note that for government interior design projects, interior designers are usually selected based on their experience rather than qualification. For example, recent RFQ cum RFP for Interior Works of Business and Exhibition Centre (BEC) building of ABCD Complex in Dholera Special Investment Region reads like this – “The Bidder must have successfully completed interior works of Public building constituting of Auditorium including MEPF work in previous 7 years prior to the Bid due date for any government/PSU/ Private Company…” So the technical capacity of the bidder is determined solely based on his past experience in handling a project of a similar nature without giving any significance to his educational qualification.
In India, architecture education is governed by the Council of Architecture which is a statutory body and which licenses architects in India for practice as well as recognizes qualifications. In recent times, some universities have introduced interior design as a specialization within architecture programs. Many universities have initiated three year bachelors program in interior design, which tend to be more interior decoration than interior design. Interestingly, apart from architecture there is no statutory governance of specific nature for other design disciplines like interior design.
Recently, Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID) held an event at HITEX in Hyderabad, IIID Showcase Insider, 2018. At the inaugural speech of the event, Pratap JADHAV, National President of IIID had hinted at restricting practice to well qualified and well deserving by bringing in licensing into the profession. However, change cannot be brought overnight as several issues need to be tackled and many government agencies need to be taken into confidence. “It may take a decade or more to become law and come into force. We want the government to introduce licensing system as we professionals deal with spaces which have health and safety issues,” the President had told in his address. IIID has 31 chapters and 8,000 members across India. Though this number may look huge but one should remember that there are three lakh interior design professionals in India.
One of the immediate steps IIID is taking is to enhance the quality of Interior Design Profession in the country. And one of the ways to ensure that is by focusing on quality education of the Interior Designing. IIID is collaborating with 35 colleges and 12 universities to enhance the quality of interior designing education and faculty training. In the forthcoming summit in September in Jaipur IIID is expected to announce a charter defining what is quality interior design education.
Though the steps envisaged by the IIID are commendable and are in right direction, the biggest question is about those who are already into this profession. IIID should also chart its course regarding those who are already into this profession and also about the unqualified professionals. Even bigger problem is about convincing the government agencies to give due recognition to the qualification of the bidders while selecting interior designers for government projects.
There is also a need to drive home a point that interior design is not just a colour and fabric matching job and it is more about the detailing a design language to perfection, practical knowledge of construction sequential activities, incorporation of every technology that goes in, and at the same time, a user requirement based functional space. Today we are living in an environment where failed civil engineers or wannabe carpenters and painters branding themselves as interior designers. This indicates the lowered standard of the profession which doesn’t have strong body to administer the activities at the top.
The size of the Interior Design Industry in India is estimated to be around Rs 20,000 crore and is growing much faster than real estate sector. Growth in the coming years is going to be rapid as the income level of the people is growing due to faster economic development and shortening renovation cycle. Therefore, it is foolhardy to orphan such promising sector without any proper regulatory mechanism. Efforts of IIID are timely but will be ineffective if it doesn’t get enough government support.