Interior Architecture Committee

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The Interior Architecture Knowledge Community (IAKC) is committed to advancing the practice of Interior Architecture by providing its membership with resources to elevate their professional practice and design excellence. We serve to facilitate a national dialogue that addresses a range of key issues, including innovative design and programming, the incorporation of sustainable materials and technologies, and the social, cultural, and spatial impact of architecture on human experience. IAKC seeks to address national issues with regional sensitivity, providing a platform for its membership to share knowledge, gain expertise, and form collaborative relationships with industry peers and allied partners. Join us!

An Interview with Clarence Kwan, AIA

By Susan Brain AIA posted 06-18-2018 02:37 PM



by Susan Brain, AIA | Perkins+Will

Congratulations Clarence on being elected 2018 Chair of AIA National’s Interior Architecture Knowledge Community Advisory Group!  I understand you’ve been involved in the field of Interior Architecture and with this particular Knowledge Community for quite some time.  Could you share with us your journey as an AIA volunteer and your passion for Interior Architecture?

Soon after I became a registered architect in Washington State, I attended an event hosted by AIA Seattle’s Diversity Committee where I learned about the lack of women and minorities in our profession. I was determined to help make our profession more inclusive. Within a short period of time, I became the local chair of the committee, then the chair of the national AIA Diversity Committee, and served as Advisory Group member of other national knowledge communities, including this one. While the work at   is not about social causes, it is the most relevant to my own day-to-day work. I have been focusing my practice on interior architecture for over a decade now. I find interiors much more interesting and fulfilling, especially when it comes to experiential design.


Tell us about the Interior Architecture Knowledge Community Advisory Group (AG).  When was this Community established?  Who participates and what’s on the agenda for 2018?

IAKC was founded in the 70s as a subcommittee of the AIA Documents Committee with focus on an scope. Because of the increasing relevance of interior design in our profession, it soon became a vibrant knowledge community (KC) with over 1,500 members. A lot of our members use the KC as a resource for their practices, while the more active ones sign up to lead several initiatives. With the vast multitude of topics that are prevalent in our work, we have decided to focus on “The Human Experience” this year. Our events for this year’s A’18 Conference in NYC celebrate this topic.


The focus for this year’s Advisory Group is "The Human Experience".  What does that mean in the context of Interior Architecture and the Advisory Group’s activity plans for 2018?

In recent years, a lot of architects have been focusing their efforts on form and space making. Interior architects have been looking at a variety of subject matters including healthy materials, natural light, clean air, colors, and research on human behavior to make buildings more user-friendly. In A’18 NYC, the AG hosts a roundtable and a continuing education session to discuss the human-centered architecture. Throughout the year, our online interviews, blog website also follow this theme.


Traditionally IAKC has hosted an open forum discussion at the annual AIA Conference.  Who is eligible to attend and what’s in the works for this year?

Everyone who attends the A’18 Conference should come! Any AIA members who sign onto when they join or renew, are officially a part of the Knowledge Community already. They should show up and break bread with us. In this session, we will break out into four smaller groups to discuss several topics relevant to interior architecture, all related to “The Human Experience” of course. (The AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community Open Forum will be held Friday, June 22 1:30–3:30)

AIA’s Conference schedule includes a long list of educational opportunities.  For those whose interest is Interior Architecture, which sessions would you recommend?

In addition to the Open Forum, we have a continuing education session SA106 – The Human Experience: Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture, when we will discuss this year’s national award winners as related to our 2018 theme. Here are a number other sessions that  recommends:

WE303 – Crash Course to the AIA Healthier Building Materials Protocol 
TH314 – The Waldorf Astoria: A New York City Landmark 
TH316 – The Hitchcock Center: Building a Teaching & Advocacy Tool 
EL901 – Fresh Coating Innovations: Coatings That Work 
EL131a – Innovate Your Interiors with Extruded Aluminum Trim 
SA210 – 2+2 Achieving Outstanding Design: College of Fellows and Young Architects 


Does the National IAKC Advisory Group provide leadership or communicate directly with local component knowledge communities?  If not, might it be possible to explore ways to unite component committee chairs and strengthen the collective IAKC voice?

Members of AG and active members of the KC who lead initiatives are located across the nation. They have close relationships with the local components as well as allied organizations like IIDA and ASID. We encourage collaboration with local and allied groups to have a greater outreach. If anyone who has great ideas to share for us to work together with others, please let me or other AG members know.


What are some of today’s challenges within the Interior Architecture community?  In your opinion, what are some ways to begin working towards overcoming these challenges?

Some architects still regard interior work as “decorating.” There is an on-going debate about licensure of interior designers at the state level. We should have moved away from this by now and dedicated focus on designing for people. But I see challenges as opportunities. As far as I am concerned all buildings have an interior that needs to be thoughtfully designed. I think there are plenty of opportunities for architects and designers to work together to elevate the human experience. This is why IAKC chooses this as our theme this year.


How do you envision the future of the Advisory Group?  Where do you see the focus of Interior Architecture conversation in 20 years?

In 20 years’ time, maybe there will be no need to have a specialized group of interior architects. Hopefully, design, be it interior, exterior, landscape, lighting, mechanical, etc. is much more integrated and that we can work together better.


How can other AIA Members best support IAKC’s mission?

Join us! We are very active on our website (, on Twitter (@AIAinterior), and on LinkedIn (AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community)


Share with us your sources for creative inspiration.  What do you do at home or on the road to keep the creative energy alive?

At home in San Francisco and while I am on the road, I pay attention to the colors, textures, touch, sounds, and smell of interior spaces. I observe how food, drinks, conversations, music, lights are celebrated in spaces where people gather and share ideas. I also look at how people work and think creatively, which is, of course, useful for my own practice.

Receive communications by joining this Knowledge Community.  Look for Clarence and other members of the Advisory Group at A’18 NYC.