Should COA govern interior design?

Should COA govern interior design?

There is no doubt that the best project outcomes are achieved where the architect, designer and home builder have excellent synergy, a great sense of collaboration, know each other’s role and complement one another’s area of expertise. This is an ideal situation but rarely experienced in reality by the professionals involved in house construction and design.

There are many similarities between the two professions, that is, architecture and interior design. Both architects and interior designers are engaged in space planning and are well aware of prevailing building codes and regulations. Both are creative and artistic and can suggest best products for homes. They are also aware of the quality of each brand of building material and know which brand suits where.

Though there are so many things in common between the two professions, they are usually carried out by people belonging to two different professional bodies as they study and get trained in two different disciplines. However, there is no denying the fact that architecture is a highly regulated field. An architect can practice/act only if he has a license to do so while the same is not the case with interior designers. It should be noted that many very talented and successful interior designers have had no formal training. Even in online building plan approval system, the government asks for the certificate from the architects and not from interior designers as the former are regulated under a separate Act of Parliament.

It is always expected that the architects must design homes that are safe for the occupants. As the architects are responsible for the main structure of a home, they are authorized to make changes to it. Interior Designers are allowed to change only the parts of a home that do not interfere with its actual structure.

While the architects can design and have the required expertise in designing the interior and exterior spaces of any home and creating spatial relationships within a structure, interior designers work within the already established spatial platform and use their skills to enhance the aesthetic value. Unlike architects designers do not have the academic training in architecture and engineering, but they are experienced in interior space design and management. However, architecture as a domain of study and practice has been well entrenched for a long time. Many from the architecture profession have migrated to interior design.

In India, conflict between architects and interior designers came to surface during the investigation of cause of recent fire at Kamala Mill Compound in Mumbai which claimed 14 lives. Architecture fraternity felt that since architects almost always submit plans as per rules the buck for any illegalities carried out on a structure should stop with interior designers. While architects are registered with the local body (in this case BMC), interior designers are not.

Demand for making interior design profession part of the architecture comes mainly due to the fact that while architecture profession is highly regulated, interior design is not. “The law has to now make the interior decorator (designer) liable for damages that may occur due to negligence and oversight in not recommending safe material,” recommended the BMC Commissioner in his report on causes for fire at Kamala Mill Compound in Mumbai last year. The Commissioner had recommended certain amendments in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act to make it mandatory for interior designers to register with BMC as well.

India is one the few countries to have formulated and adopted a National Design Policy. A few years ago  an India Design Council was constituted to implement the major provisions of National Design Policy. However, both the policy and Council are mainly aimed at promoting industrial design than other branches of design though the maximum concentration of designers is in the area of architecture and interior design.

The Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID), founded and registered as a society in 1972,  is the apex body for the field of Interior Design in India. The objective of IIID is to establish good professional and trade practices and ethics among its members, highlight and enhance the image of the Interior Design Profession and create a platform for knowledge sharing with similar organizations at an international level. However, the institute lacks statutory sanctity and unlike COA it doesn’t have any licensing authority. Thus, IIID in its present form will not be in a position to regulate the practice of interior design and mostly acts as recommendatory body aimed at promoting the profession.

While IIID has around 5,500 registered members, the number of practicing interior designers in the country is much more than that. IIID neither has the legal mandate nor the wherewithal to monitor the profession. Though the India Design Council was constituted with accreditation of design qualifications as one of its mandate, the precise regime of a accreditation is yet to come in force.

At the same time it is also true that many universities have introduced interior design as a specialization within architecture programs. Further, many universities have initiated three year bachelors program in interior design. These are all go on to indicate that every year more and more graduates with interior design qualification will be added to the profession’s workforce. This calls for setting up of a statutory body to regulate and supervise the profession. Alternatively, the government can consider granting IIID with more powers to assume the role of regulatory body for the profession.

In the absence of these options should the COA take the onus of regulating and licensing the profession? “That’s not a feasible solution because interior design as a profession will grow in volume almost equal to that of architecture. We need to have a separate body with more teeth having authority to issue licenses and punish the guilty,” says Kalpesh Rao, an interior designer. According to him, the government has the experience in regulating the architecture profession through suitable law of Parliament and it need to follow the same procedure in case of interior design also. “Though architecture and interior design have many similarities, they are two different professions. They are treated as different professions all over the world. Bringing them under regulation of Architecture Act is a retrograde step,” says a member of COA on the condition of anonymity.  However, there is near unanimity about the need for regulating the interior design profession more closely.

Need for more regulation and that too urgently is felt because of the future growth prospects of the profession. In the coming days, Indian real estate sector which is currently facing some difficulties, is headed for rapid growth. Growing population, rising income levels, urbanization and the rapid growth of the IT sector are the key drivers for the Indian real estate sector. With increase in growth, demand for allied services like architecture, interior design & landscape architecture is likely to increase. To make this growth more healthy and orderly we need to have strong and supportive regulatory body to oversee the profession.

1 Comment

  1. yes ! there should be COA / AICTE or any other agency to regulate the syllabus and curriculum to benefit the students for quality of education.

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