Learning is a lifelong experience—not confined to the classroom or a formal process of instruction, but rather an open-ended exercise by which the mind is expanded through the application of accessed information, an alternative perspective, an enriching experience, a new relationship, etc. Such is the proposition to which we dedicate our March issue focused on Education, where our definition of “learning environments” includes spaces as varied as a remarkable new high school for a working class community in New Orleans by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and the painstaking historic restoration of Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay, which brings to light a dark and somewhat forgotten chapter in American history. The thing that ties them all together, of course, is the way design has played a critical role in forming the user experience, and maximizing their potential to encourage the stimulation of the mind and the transfer of knowledge.
It may be hard for the general public—and even some practitioners—to understand the profound impact that interior space can have on people, even though these are the places where we by and large play out our lives, our work, and our social and familial interactions. The International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI), an international federating body for interior architecture and design organizations that acts as a global forum for the exchange of ideas in interior design education, research, and practice around the world, recently made history in New York with the creation of its first-ever declaration focused on conveying the importance of interior design and interior architecture in the built environment, and specifically its importance to users.
My good friend and colleague, former Designer of the Year, and current IFI president Shashi Caan first piqued my interest in this ambitious, strategic effort last spring, and having grasped the impact of what she and IFI were trying to accomplish, I committed myself to helping with its realization. I am proud of my small role in its success as one of a 100-person, international delegation of industry leaders who participated in the IFI Global Symposium on February 17 and 18, and I am particularly grateful to have been given the opportunity to contribute something significant and lasting to the interiors profession on the eve of my departure from Contract magazine. When I step down as editor in chief on April 1, I will do so with the satisfaction of knowing that my time here has come full circle. My passionate mission—to communicate the message that good design has real value to individuals, organizations, and societies well beyond its aesthetic qualities—is at the center of a global dialog that is only in its infancy, and promises to shape and reshape and better the practice for years to come.
As I said, education is a lifelong process and truly I have been blessed and inspired by what I have learned from the A&D community these past 20 years (whew!) about the profession, the world, and more importantly, about life. To all my good friends and those I have yet to meet in my new role as vice president A&D market development for InterfaceFLOR, thank you for teaching me so well. It has been one heck of a valuable education!