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Exterior Interiors: The Urban Living Room and Beyond

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posted on 14.08.2021, 03:05 by Joanna Merwood-SalisburyJoanna Merwood-Salisbury, V Coxhead
Despite the best efforts of high modernist architects and urban designers to privilege openness and continuous space, to do away with enclosure altogether, the contemporary global city is as much an interior condition as an exterior one. Early manifestations of the ‘urban interior’ appeared in late-nineteenth-century America, when skyscraper architects designed elaborate lobbies mimicking and competing with the streets outside. In the post-war era the invention of new architectural technologies allowed these public-scaled interiors to extend beyond the boundaries of the city block. Air-conditioning, fluorescent lighting, the escalator and long-span structural systems made possible the vast interior spaces characteristic of our contemporary urban landscape: the shopping mall, the office complex and the airport terminal (Koolhaas, 1995, 2000). Intrigued by the possibility of these mega-scale interiors, late-modern architects and designers began to adopt strategies typically associated with urban design in their conceptualization of these spaces (Stickells, 2006; Rice, 2016). 1 At the same time, just as commercial interiors began to acquire the scale and form of the public street, huge swathes of exterior space came under the control of corporate entities or public-private groups such as Business Improvement Districts: organizations that employ almost domestic-scale housekeeping strategies, such as the installation of seating and lighting, in an attempt to render city streets safe and comfortable for middle-class consumers (Mallett, 1994).


Preferred citation

Merwood-Salisbury, J. R. & Coxhead, V. (2017). Exterior Interiors: The Urban Living Room and Beyond. In D Schneiderman, A Campos (Ed.), Interiors Beyond Architecture (pp. 139-152). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315647838

Book title

Interiors Beyond Architecture



Place of publication





D Schneiderman; A Campos



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