The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

“AOD designers will be leading and exporting Sri Lankan Interior design by 2020”


Interview with American designer and programme-head of Interior Design at AOD, Joel Rapp
AOD (Academy of Design) is known to be Sri Lanka’s premier educator in delivering international design. On par with its globally renowned design education, AOD engages an internationally experienced faculty from across the world. Joel Rapp, AOD’s programme head of Interior Design, speaks of revolutionary vision for interior design education in Sri Lanka through AOD, and his challenging mission of guiding his students to form a contemporary movement in local interiors.

Joel on the Dubai architectural study tour with AOD students

Q; What do you observe to be the essential for the development of Sri Lanka’s Interior design industry?
Sri Lankan architects gathered international knowledge and formed a great contemporary style for Sri Lankan architecture in the 50’s and the 60’s. However, evolution of local interior design has been quite slow in comparison. What Sri Lanka needs today is not just an incremental change from generation to generation, but a fresh perspective that propels us over that gap and makes us leaders in contemporary design. Sri Lanka needs a creative revolution in interior design; I believe it will be the students of AOD who spearhead this revolution.

Q; How are AOD students better prepared for this challenge of leading a revolution in Sri Lankan Interior design?
Materials and technology advances in the last 15 years have totally changed the global world of Interior Design. The AOD student works within that global world and attempts to create projects based not on what things ‘should’ look like, but what their ideas lead them to. AOD’s interior designers are trained with the necessary knowledge and skills needed to fulfil many professional roles from project designer, project architect to structural engineer, within a global context, but the program seeks to breed not role players, but team leaders who will drive projects, firms, and eventually their own entrepreneurial efforts. This will create that essential bridging between the local and international interior design while AOD’s continuing relationship with local history and culture will help these designers establish a globally relevant new Sri Lankan interior style.

Q; How do you ensure that their education is more pragmatic and industry relevant?
Even the best ideas are useless unless you can make them reality. Interior design, at a professional level, is about control; nobody who cannot control a project can lead a project. The reality is, training a person to both conceive a good project, and control it takes a lot of time. Therefore I have implemented the ‘Teach to project, Teach through project’ system which prepares student for realities of working world and contextualizes all work making for even motivation across all classes.

Joel Rapp, Programme Head of Interior Design at AOD Campus

Each AOD Interior student spends a minimum of 1000 hours in his/her final year working on a single project that gives them first-hand experience in real working conditions within the industry. 61% of Project topics for BA thesis-projects cover ethical, ecological, and social sustainability issues and 47% deal with Sri Lankan community or national issues. Focusing so much time on important issues makes AOD students not only better designers, but better thinkers.

Q; Where do you envision AOD interior designers to be within the contexts of local and international interior design industries?
AOD graduates have the training and the education necessary to manage and lead interior design projects anywhere in the world. Working abroad and gaining more global perspective will help them gain expertise in international projects too. AOD’s goal is to make sure that our interior designers’ are at a leading and influential position both locally and internationally. AOD’s education, training and curricula contribute to this goal. My vision is to see AOD designers leading and exporting Sri Lankan Interior design by 2020.

Joel Rapp who is an American interior designer whose work extends from designing tableware in the jungles of Africa to designing museums in New York City, he hopes to bring together his sound experience on design and familiarity with advanced industrial techniques to place the AOD’s interior design students at a leading position in the world of interior design within the next decade.
AOD has now opened its enrolments for the 2012 intake for its globally renowned Northumbria University School Design UK degree in Interior Design. For more information, contact AOD at 29, Lauries Road, Colombo 4. (011) 2502850/90 (011) 5867772/3, www.aod.lk

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