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Interior design theory and practice research

Explore our work in this area of expertise, one of 8 within our Architecture, Interiors and Urbanism research

In our interior design theory and creative practice research, we're exploring how buildings are used by people, by mapping and documenting their activity as they interact with them – from the movements an individual makes as they walk through a door, to how they understand the space they enter, and the decisions they make as a result.

These sorts of responses are largely unrepresented in the design process of buildings. Rather, an individual's response to moving through a space is often overlooked, and architects design by assumptions.

Interior design is a discipline that's discussed and defined through long-established conventions, methods and power structures – and these practices are realised through discussions that are based on a particular set of principles that focus on form-making – such plans, sections, elevations and architectural specifications.

But our interdisciplinary research is investigating how architects and urban designers might draw, write, and re-think ways to represent interior spaces.

We're exploring methods to disrupt existing power structures, and examine ways that visual images, drawings, writing, scores and actions can communication alternative ways to represent our presence in buildings. This shifts the focus of interior design away from its containment in architectural practice, to one that engages with the body to re-imagine the ways in which we make space.

This has the potential to impact how we create cities, by considering the many voices of the community – rather than just that of planners.

Our research covers these topics 

  • Adaptive reuse
  • Historic interiors
  • Design history
  • Design activism
  • Sensory experience
  • Affective space
  • Material matters
  • Feminist practices
  • Creative practice
  • Creative research methodologies

Our methods include creative practices, such as drawing, writing, conversational processes, artist’s books, semi-structured interviews, and the filming of people’s movements. These methods of representation bring together emotion and affect – for example, through the form of the artists' book.

We have access to motion capture studios, workshops, and advanced architectural technologies, like a 3D printer, and much our research benefits from our partnerships with The Point in Eastleigh – through which we're studying the relationship between dance and architecture – and The Weald and Downland Museum, where we're currently exploring the relationship between historic spaces and advanced software technologies. We're also linked to the CCI Cultural Heritage Research Group.


  • Matter of the Manor – According to Historic England, we observe a building 'in order to ascertain what information it provides about its origins, form, function, date and development'. This says little about the human encounter, emotions and the imagination. This interdisciplinary project explores the overlaps between interior design, and historic building conservation. We're mainly concerned with the forceful emotional engagement of historic settings, and the way historic settings are viewed and experienced. Our design work uses an uninhabited 16th century manor house as a case study. We propose that the house is experienced more poignantly in its transitional state, before any restoration is carried out. Ultimately, we're exploring creative methodologies as a tool for discussion in historic sites, away from the norm of focus groups and questionnaires.


  • St Luke's Church, Portsmouth – We're currently working with St Luke’s Church, using iterative and collaborative practices to develop their internal spaces. The process – which involves the church, local community and design team – is intended to work as an open-ended conversation and is being developed through creative practice; material play and 1:1 design proposals.


  • We have also received approximately £3,000 in funding for our work from the University's Innovation Accelerator Awards. We are also developing a funding bid to examine the representations of historic sites, and how people make meaning through three sites in Portsmouth: Wymering Manor House, St Luke's Church and Portsea.


  • We have also exhibited in Perth and Melbourne, Australia, as part of The Interior Design/Interior Architecture Educators Association (IDEA)

Discover our areas of expertise 

Interior design theory and practice is one of our 8 areas of research expertise in Architecture, Interiors and Urbanism – explore the other 7 below.

Green infrastructures

We're planning cities that can be both liveable for humans, while not resulting in further decline to the planet's ecological vitality.

A view of Portsmouth from Catherine House looking towards Spinnaker Tower
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Historic environments and conservation

We're looking at how architecture, community and creative technologies can play a role in enhancing historic environments.

Exterior of a historic building with statues and Corinthian columns
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Environmental analysis and design

Through our research, we're re-thinking the way we build cities, to better react to environmental issues and challenges, such as climate change.

Skyscraper with plants growing up the facade, Sydney
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Sustainable urbanism

We're exploring the models, technology and policies that can guide governments and planners to develop sustainable cities.

Sustainable housing at Priddy's Hard, Gosport
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Architectural and urban history and theory

We're doing research into the history and theory behind how we conceptualise and produce architecture and urban spaces on different scales. Explore our architectural and urban history and theory research.

Exterior of Charter House building in Portsmouth
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Design education

We're researching issues related to teaching and learning within creative and design disciplines, focusing on pedagogy, curriculum, student engagement, and learning theories.

Close-up design alphabet
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Digital design and new technologies

We're studying the integration of digital technology and new technologies in architectural planning, urban planning, and sustainability – and how they can impact future design processes.

3d printer model of a new building and city
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Our members

Belinda Ann Frances Mitchell Portrait

Ms Belinda Mitchell

Senior Lecturer

School of Architecture

Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

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Research groups

Architectural and Urban History and Theory research group

We're researching narratives of place and the construction of new historiographical and theoretical discourses in architecture, interiors, landscape, and urbanism.

Intricate Roman church ceiling architecture featuring arches, pillars, gilding, iconography, typography and glass windows
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Interested in a PhD in Architecture, Interiors & Urbanism?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Architecture, Interiors & Urbanism  postgraduate research degrees page.