Noting that social and environmental sustainability has taken the focus in recent projects, the jury considered whether spatial design is moving beyond social media. Here are a few key takeaways from the Interiors of the Month panel discussion.

Forge new typologies from the old 

Renovation and refurbishment of existing properties was a common denominator in June’s round of projects, something the jury noticed with admiration – especially how designers are using original architectures to widen the potential of modern programming. Take the historically sensitive yet contemporary revision of the KMSKA Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by Kaan Architecten, our first runner-up, for instance (end score: 8, Cultural Space). ‘You immediately understand that this space is not a space from the past,’ Avşar Gurpinar, assistant professor at Istanbul Bilgi University and cofounder of Ambiguous Standards Institute said. ‘This is a new interior. With the use of colours and different scales, and by holding onto the old but very strong ways of making things, the designers created this very original interior for the museum visitor.’

Kaan Architecten has reinstated original colours, materials, and routing within the historic halls of the KMSKA Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, and added a new vertical museum hidden in the heart of the structure. Photo: Stijn Bollaert, Sebastian Van Damme, Karin Borghouts

Het Vakwerkhuis is built within a century-old monument in Delft.

Het Vakwerkhuis, a Delft co-working office transformed from a century-old monument by Vakwerk Architecten, is another fine example from our group of honourable mentions (end score: 7.71, Co-Working Space). ‘I read the dialogue between the old and a new [in the project] as a metaphor for collaboration and coexistence and participation between the people who work there, the community and the surrounding area of the city,’ explained Anastasia Karandinou, architect and course director at the University of East London. ‘I was very impressed by the details of how those different elements and spaces come together.’

Kirkkonummi's new library comprised an adaptive reuse project – it was built using the existing concrete structure of the original 1980s library. Photos: Pauliina Salonen

Substance over (social media) style 

‘I really liked that some of the spaces move away from the Instagram page,’ Johnny Chiu, founder of J.C. Architecture, said. ‘Not everything has to be super shiny, super pink, super loud. It’s not about putting your name on a space and then it becomes your brand – it’s about expressing the essence behind that brand.’ He explained that it’s much more important to provide users with an ‘enriching life moment’ than an Instagram moment, something that he believes the Interior of the Month – Kirkkonummi Library Fyyri, an institution located in the Helsinki suburb Kirkkonummi – accomplishes successfully (end score: 8.11, Cultural Space). JKMM Architects renovated a 1980s library to bring the new hub to the community, aiming to foster connection between users. The jury concurred that the execution is ‘timeless’, commending its ‘human scale’.

‘We've been bombarded with so many flashy images, that we now want to look a little bit further and examine what space is really about and how it has been built, and how it relates to its context and community, as well as how it addresses sustainability,’ continued Karandinou. She pointed out that, while she expected many projects to be illustrated with plans and drawings, most submissions missed this, ultimately losing an opportunity to give the jurors and audience a better overview. It’s something she herself has been criticized for in the past. ‘We fall into that trap that images will communicate the atmosphere, sense and character of space. But the same time, we’re looking for substance as well.’

Cover and above: Situated on the grounds of a school in southeast England, the David Brownlow Theatre provides students a place for education on performance, production and design. Photos: Jim Stephenson

Bangkok's Vikasa Yoga displays a fusion of 3D technologies with traditional Thai craftsmanship. Photo: Edmund Sumner

Tap into localities to optimize sustainability

 ‘Local materials and local craftsmanship have been combined with new 3D technologies,’ Chiu pointed out of Enter Projects Asia-designed Bangkok health club Vikasa Yoga, which came in fifth place (end score: 7.66). ‘The two come together to create something that is environmentally sustainable, socially sustainable, and was built with locals according to local conditions.’ 

These qualities were shared by David Brownlow Theatre, a school venue in the UK by Jonathan Tuckey Design (end score: 7.77, Learning Space) ‘I was very much moved by the attitude that this building conveys – that sense of top-quality design and authenticity – the opposite of being pretentious,’ shared Karandinou. ‘It’s a very genuine and articulate project, and very sensitive to the surrounding area’s environmental factors, in terms of materials that have been used, the construction methods and so on.’ ‘Sustainability has been addressed by different projects in different ways,’ she added. ‘In many cases, finding inventive ways to reuse the existing mass of a building, rather than discarding or demolishing it, is one very important aspect of decision sustainability.’

And what struck William Barrington-Binns, director of photography at WBB & Co., most? ‘I thought the mindfulness of a lot of the projects, the drive of the the teams and the goals were unbelievable,’ he said. ‘As we've all said, you could see sustainability was a key factor in so many of the projects, whether that was through employing all the artisans locally, or using reclaimed or upcycled products. It was definitely on the minds of so many of the entrants.’

Watch the full talk here: