IFI President’s Update

Japan Interior Design Association (JID)

By way of an introduction to this week’s focus on the Japan Interior Design Association (JID) – IFI member since 1977 – I was reminded that JID, as the first Asian member to join IFI, pioneered the global interiors outreach in Asia. With this consideration and exploration of how IFI evolved from its European beginnings into the truly global organization it is today, we discovered some interesting material worth sharing.

IFI came into existence as a result of a series of conversations between professionals in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark in 1955. It took an additional eight years before a meeting was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1963, where 10 European countries (with some 28 delegates) joined together for the first time as an international Interiors community. The primary discussion at this meeting was the initiation of an Interiors-specific international networking opportunity. This meeting marked the inauguration of IFI, but not without difficult debate.

One of the major discussion points concerned the issue of what to call the organization. As a professional representative, this really meant addressing the question of the title of the discipline. Initially, our European founding members selected to call IFI the “Union Internationale des Architectes d’Interieur” (UIAI). However, given the then existence of two other organizations, namely the “Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA)” and the “Union des Associations Internationales (UAI)”, forming an organization with a similar acronym was confusing, and the name UAIA was rejected.

Another, more pressing argument for an alternative name at that time came from the Danish architects of the UIA, who argued that they “considered the professional designation architect d”interieur unacceptable because of the widespread legal protection of the title “architect”, which would, they maintained, endanger the position of people presenting themselves as “interior architects.” The delegates discussed this argument and determined to rename the organization IFI – “The International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers” – the name representing the federation we know today.

[These historic references are provided with thanks to the meticulous work and documentation of IFI compiled by Liesbeth Harding (The Netherlands). Ms. Harding was the first and longest serving Secretary General of IFI, and documents her 30 year experience in “IFI 1963 – 1993 A Personal View”, Avonwold Publishing, South Africa, 1998]

It seems that the singular identity of Interiors and design within the built environment has remained an unsolvable challenge for the past half a century. Debate concerning the identity of this essential design discipline has persisted over the decades, continuing to cause misunderstanding and difficulty within architecture/design and with the public at large. At the beginning of this 21st century, with IFI’s truly global outreach, and as the discipline matures, perhaps today we are in a better position to solve this dilemma.

Our DFIE Initiative – Design Frontiers(Futures): The Interiors Entity – has this question at its core, and the documentation and analysis effort currently underway involves consumers, designers, institutions, associations and members in more than 60 countries worldwide. It may be pertinent to ask how successful the peak (and only) global federation of Interiors can become if it inherently causes confusion by maintaining two professional titles within its name (Architecture/Design). As we come together to try and understand the value, relevance, responsibility and identity of our fundamental discipline, it seems appropriate to consider IFI’s outward global expansion continuing the course of the past fifty-five years.

During the 1960s, IFI membership spread throughout Europe to include Iceland (FHA now FHI) in 1967 and Hungary (MKSO) in 1969. The first non-European IFI member was ASID (formerly AID) from North America, who joined in 1974, followed by Canada (IDC) and Poland (ZPAP). Rapid expansion within the United States meant that by 1977, NCDIQ, FIDER (now CIDA) and IDEC had also joined the federation, and in 1978 the IFI General Assembly was held for the first time outside of Europe, in Washington DC. Strikingly appropriate, given IFI’s important role (and re-established core focus) in Design Policy, was the topic of this 1978 Congress, entitled “Designing for and with Governments”.

IFI Member Since 1977

It was at this seminal 1978 General Assembly, under the presidency of Verena Huber (Switzerland), that the Japan Interior Designers’ Association (JID) became officially recognized as a Full IFI Member. As the inaugural IFI Member to represent a country in the Asian region, JID remained the only Asian member for more than seven years, until Indonesia (HDII) joined in 1985.

JID, the national association representing interior designers in Japan, is a forward-looking and involved member of the IFI community and is comprised of four regional chapters: Kanto, Chubu, Kansai and Kyushu. Formed in 1958, JID has been dedicated to design activities and the professional, cultural and legal aspects of Interiors for more than half a century. The organization actively promotes the contribution of interiors to improving lifestyle/quality of life, industrial development, resolving social issues and establishing a standard of comfort across the built environment.

After establishing its relationship with IFI, in 1987 JID helped the organization with the publication of the IFI Yearbook entitled “World-wide Interior”. At the IFI General Assembly and World Design Congress, Chicago (1991), Japan was selected to host the 17th biennial GA & Congress in 1995. For the first time in Asia, the 1995 Congress took place in the city of Nagoya, bringing together in excess of 1300 interior designers, architects, and students from more than 35 countries. The congress was an outstanding success, involving numerous substantial discussion sessions and related events such as a Global Interiors Exhibit, International Design Competition and Winning Entries Exhibition. The theme of the congress was “NEXT WAVE”. Panel discussions and debate related to the necessity for interior design to coexist with nature and the environment, foster the blossoming of human knowledge and improve quality of life.

As part of their ongoing commitment to raising design standards, back in 1969 JID established the national JID Award, recognizing excellent works and accomplishments related to interior design and promoting emerging designers. The JID Award gives new and established local talent an opportunity to be showcased on the world stage for contributing to the development of society and culture. JID also publishes regular journals and holds numerous community events, including the “Living Design” exhibitions, discussion forums and student workshops (see images in left hand column).

Recently, JID brought together an “International Committee” to take part in regular international activities and build global relationships. Currently in progress is a program to introduce Japanese youth and the next generation of Japanese Interior Designers to overseas design communities and markets.

As a premier association in Japan, we salute JID for their continued visionary and dedicated service to our discipline.  JID, you are an extraordinary body of people and a source of inspiration to all, thank you.

As always, to all our readership, I welcome your thoughts and comments. It is insightful and encouraging to receive your feedback. Please keep in touch.