What were you doing before you came to the RCA?
Before studying at the RCA, I completed a Bachelor of Architecture at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. It was a five-year professional degree that included one year of study in Florence, Italy.
Why did you decide to study at the RCA?
One of the main reasons that I was attracted to the RCA was its combination of design, engineering and fine art. It's quite a rare combination, and one that means a lot to me. It's also – believe it or not! – cheaper to study at the RCA as an international student than it is to study at home in the US.
The international nature of the RCA – the fact that it attracts students from all over the world – was also very attractive to me. I knew that I wanted to spend some time working in London, so the fact that it would be possible to make contacts here was also an important factor.
Why did you decide to study Interior Design rather than Architecture?
When I came to the end of my five-year architecture BA, I realised that I hadn't once talked about the inside of a building. As a result, I felt that there was this huge gap in my knowledge and understanding. I realised that I wanted to spend time thinking about the experience of a building – its surfaces and its details – not just the structure.
I think of interior design and architecture as part of the same thing, rather than two separate disciplines, so I liked the fact that the Interior Design programme at the RCA is situated within the School of Architecture. In the USA, it's conceived of differently – interior design is much more about surface decoration or furnishings, a sort of throw pillow placement field of study. Here, I’d describe the study of interior design as architecture focused on human inhabitation.
How has your work changed or developed while you have been at the RCA?
I think that my work has changed a lot as a result of studying at the RCA. I've definitely become more aware of the human component of my work. Previously, a lot of my work was quite theoretical. Now, it has transitioned into proposals for things that are still experimental, but that could actually be built.
What have you found to be the main differences between your BA and your MA?
I think the biggest difference that I have encountered has been the tutors. The tutors here are colleagues. My design problem is their design problem, and studying here is one big, long conversation about the nature of our discipline and its application in a larger framework.
What is the mixture of students like on your course?
It's a very mixed, international group. There are in fact only a few people from the UK, and I'm one of two Americans. That diversity is a really positive thing, but it does mean that people arrive with different kinds of skill sets.
While some people are brilliant at the hands-on elements, others are much better at working with digital software, and vice versa, depending on how and where they've been taught. That sometimes provided a challenge during the collaborative projects in the first year – but by and large, it has been an amazing opportunity to learn about the nature of working within an international practice.
What is a typical day like on the Interior Design MA at the RCA?
The Interior Design programme at the RCA is very self-motivated. On Mondays and Thursdays we have tutorials, and we often have various events scheduled in the evenings throughout the week. We've also started a book club on Tuesday mornings, where we come together to discuss relevant theory texts, and there’s a student-led Interior Design lecture series that I help to run. For that lecture series, we invite speakers who deal with interiors from all sorts of different perspectives.
Aside from these events – and maybe two hours a day of lectures that you can choose to take part in across the RCA – the rest of the time is spent working in the studio.
Have you faced any particular challenges while you have been here?
One of the challenges that I have faced at the RCA is switching back into an arts mentality, after five years in technical education. The other major challenge has been navigating administrative and financial issues – as an international student I found it difficult at first to figure out how to access my overseas funds.
What have you found particularly rewarding about studying here, so far?
One of the great things about the Interior Design course at the RCA is its links with the professional community. Each student on the course has a practice mentorship. Last summer I worked with an organisation called Found Associates, and this year I have been working with a firm called Red Deer. The experience of working with Found Associates solidified my intention to work here in London after graduating.
The connections that you get through studying at the RCA are completely invaluable. I wouldn't have been doing the things that I'm doing now without them. Something else that can't be underestimated is the experience of living in London. I have loved having the opportunity to learn more about the London design scene. There's a real sense that people are testing things out here, and embracing the international nature of design.
"Something else that can't be underestimated is the experience of living in London. I have loved having the opportunity to learn more about the London design scene. There's a real sense that people are testing things out here, and embracing the international nature of design."