The cover of this issue of DASH shows a home interior that was exhibited in Berlin in 1952, at the exhibition ‘Wir bauen ein besseres Leben’ / ‘We’re Building a Better Life’. In this model interior, which was designed like a brilliant white laboratory, American actors showed the audience that had flocked to Berlin how you were supposed to live in this kind of house. An expert in a white coat, who towered above the drab audience, was on hand to explain the house, and what the actors were doing.
Like no other picture, this photograph shows how the housing interior has been seized upon in the modern era as a tool in emancipatory and political processes (from both the outside in and from the inside out) that have dramatically changed the dwelling landscape. With the rise of mass housing in the previous century, dwelling undeniably became an architectural task, and the interior has played an important role in this process.
Yet one can also ask whether the home interior can indeed be seen as an architectural project. After all, within the four walls of one’s own house, the resident will go his own way, unseen and undisturbed, with the walls separating the private from the public. The house is furnished and customized to one’s own needs, and is decorated with the paraphernalia of everyday life and the memories of the past. Despite this personal dimension, history has shown that the home interior has also always been linked to representation, and that makes it by definition an architectural assignment: just think of the interiors of large houses and noble palaces. The rise of mass housing over the past 100 years concentrated on dwelling as an architectural task, and that created the space for the home interior to also be an architectural assignment, one that has since overtaken the noble elite and the decorative. Nowadays it seems that every interior is considered an ‘architectural’ project, or better yet a ‘design’ project: just take a look at any magazine kiosk to see how dwelling consumers are inundated with information on the latest trends. The interior seems more than ever to have become an instrument by which an individual presents himself to the world, much in the way that fashion is also such an instrument.
For DASH, this focus on the home interior is interesting because (in)explicitly formulated ideas about the interior always play a role, and always have done, in the design of homes; this is true not only in the design of private houses, but also of mass housing. The transfer of these ideas primarily took place, and still takes place, through the interiors themselves, which are publicized by the media (books, magazines, newspapers, television, films, exhibitions, department stores, catalogues, home design blogs). Some of these interiors are specially made to express a specific view about dwelling and architecture. In this issue of DASH, we explicitly focus on these exhibited home interiors, which we call ‘interiors on display’. We examined 15 of these rooms from the last century: interiors that were never inhabited, but that were exhibited at exhibitions and fairs. In most cases, the interiors were broken down, and only live on in the form of drawings and/or photographs. Leading up to this documentation, five essays and an interview offer different perspectives on the idea of the interior as an architectural assignment, as a commercial object and as a tool in creating artistic, avant-garde and cultural reflections on society. This issue of DASH thus presents a small cross section of more than 100 years of dwelling, in the context of the rapidly changing (Western) society, and shows how these developments have been architecturally projected onto the interior.