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Study programme overview

Open Day 2015 - Interior Architecture and Furniture Design Department presentations

Image: Open Day 2015 - Interior Architecture and Furniture Design Department presentations

Main structure of the curriculum

The four-year programme of the BA Interior Architecture/ Furniture Design consists of three phases: the propaedeutic phase, the main phase and the graduation phase. Each phase has a specific mission. The line followed by these missions is that of crosspollination (Year 1), depth and connection (Years 2 and 3) and positioning (Year 4). This chronological structure is elaborated into four learning tracks, which constitute the domains that are addressed in each of the study years. These four domains are

  1. Design
  2. Morphology and Research Labs
  3. Media and Materials and 
  4. Knowledge and Context. 

The curriculum is based on principles of experimentation and research. In each study year, research (by design) focuses on a specific area or current topic, based on a solid historical and cultural foundation and the potential efforts for interpreting and integrating this basis in design.


Design domain

The Design domain is the main component and represents the basis of the study programme. It has a thematic structure. Particularly in the first year, the conceptual framework has a simple structure, so that students can learn to question everyday concepts. Interior Architecture focuses on four areas of design: Private interiors, Public interiors, Urban interiors and 3D objects. Starting from the second year of the Furniture Design programme, the following design areas are addressed: Private objects, Public objects, Urban objects and 3D objects. On class days, students work on projects in the academy’s workshop spaces, supervised by tutors but also independently.

Morphology domain

The autonomous exercises, investigative studies and free studies (of form) within this domain are conducted in a laboratory- like atmosphere. What distinguishes this domain from the design projects is that this programme component is dedicated exclusively to ‘making’. In this domain the process phases applied in the design exercises, from analysis to design, are explicitly thrown overboard: the focus here is on the process, instead of on the end result. Based on a particular approach or method, students create, visualise and experiment. The aim of Morphology is to learn how to investigate, get to know and master the phenomenon of space and form using a variety of resources, media and applications. The manner of expression is partly determined by the medium or approach. The integration of visualisation is another important component. Within the domain of Morphology, extensive attention can be paid to such topics as light, texture, relief, form, acoustics and sound, colour and scent.

Media and Materials domain

The domain of Media and Materials revolves around basic skills and tools. The focus is not necessarily on the literal mastery of these skills, but on discovering and learning how the skills can be applied and used within the design projects. This domain should thus be seen as both a source of inspiration and a trigger. In this regard, media, techniques and materials constitute a domain of expertise and research. The skills addressed in this domain include 2D and 3D hand drawing, model building, photography, graphic design, textiles and ceramics, 2D and 3D computer drawing, rapid prototyping, augmented reality and image processing. The teaching and mastery of techniques and skills are never ends in themselves and do not represent the primary learning objective. This domain also involves working and thinking in a cross-disciplinary way, transcending the boundaries of each design discipline. This study component gives students a comprehensive introduction to all the departments and the wealth of facilities/workshops within the institute.

Knowledge and Context domain

This domain comprises theoretical instruction in the form of tutorials and working assignments relating to art criticism, architectural theory and design theory. Special lectures and excursions are also organised. The department of Interior Architecture and Furniture Design has its own lecture programme consisting of 18 lectures per year. The lecture programme provides an additional theoretical impulse to the programme, and is tailored to reflect the themes and topics of that year’s ongoing curriculum as much as possible. A direct link between the year theme and the programme of lectures and films (as well as the Academy-wide Studium Generale) reinforces and supports both the theoretical framework in general and, more specifically, the curriculum of each semester. Plenty of young, up-and-coming artists and designers are invited to speak and students organise a film or a debate at the end of each lecture.

Excursions and trips are a fundamental aspect of the study programme. The propaedeutic phase (Year 1) begins with an introduction week, which includes an excursion. Foreign or domestic excursions are organised once a year as part of the annual excursion week. The final examination starts with a workshop organised either in the Netherlands or abroad. The main programme is supplemented by several smaller subject-based theoretical and professionally-oriented excursions, trips and visits to museums or exhibitions. The curriculum is based on principles of experimentation and research. In each study year, research focuses on a specific area. A solid historical and cultural basis and the ability to interpret and integrate it in the design process can generate fruitful results.

Individual Study Track

The Individual Study Track (IST), which is required for all students beginning in the second study year, is aimed at expanding the depth and breadth of the programme. The condition is that the content of the track reflects the programme’s current design exercise and that this demonstrable connection to the IST can be assessed in the final assessment of the design exercise. How the study load and the associated credits are allocated for this purpose is decided in consultation with the supervisor. Several options are available in this regard, including taking a minor course at Leiden University or one of the introductory courses that are offered within the Academy. In addition to elective courses, students can also use the IST to add depth to their studies by focusing on the fundamental courses in greater detail or by choosing from the Academywide range of interdisciplinary Research Labs that are organised by the various departments. The IST is accompanied by a study plan, which must be approved by the supervisor. Both the coach and the study advisor assist students in drawing up this plan. The coach provides guidance throughout each study year, and the study advisor maintains an overview of all the study years. The coaches encourage students to work across disciplines as much as possible, and to make use of all the available expertise, facilities and workshops.

In each year of the main phase, 12 ECT credits are reserved for the IST. For general information on the IST, please refer to the general section Study Information > IST.

Propaedeutic Year/Year 1

Semesters 1 and 2

Mission: diversity

During the first study year, the following core concepts play a central role: crossdisciplinarity, scanning, experimentation, (broad) orientation and confrontation, design, learning by doing, interaction and social networking/student mix. In the propaedeutic phase, maximum use is made of the institute’s workshops and facilities, exposing students to all possible methods of development and production. Interaction with the other disciplines offered by the KABK is also encouraged during this phase.

The propaedeutic phase is one of asking questions, exploring, experimenting and observing, in addition to becoming aware that art and design (along with art education) always involve creating in relation to thought (and vice versa). Project-based instruction plays a central role. Each semester, students work on two main projects, which involve design exercises composed in different phases. Project work takes place during a concentrated period of 16 weeks. In this study year the Morphology domain comprises four blocks. The rest of the weekly curriculum is largely devoted to the design projects. In the first year, the domain of knowledge and context (and thus the theory) consists of three main components:

1. Architectural theory
Concepts and frameworks, contemporary and current situation and context.

2. Design theory
Concepts and frameworks, contemporary and current situation, graphic design, visual art and context. During the Media and Materials domain first-year students receive a thorough introduction to all departments and to the wealth of facilities/ workshops available throughout the Academy.

3. Research & Discourse
All Bachelor students at the KABK take the module Research & Discourse during the propaedeutic phase. The KABK also organises a Studium Generale for all students. In addition, a lecture series is organised by the department three times a year. Each series consists of six lectures on a particular topic (usually related to the department’s chosen year theme).

Main Phase/Year 2

Semesters 3 and 4

Mission: depth and connection

Core concepts in the main phase are forecasting, back-casting, visionary thinking, dreaming, the future, and the here and now. The curriculum seeks to forge links to contemporary issues in both the national and international arena - to connect to the real world and to the students’ individual position within this theme (Who am I?).

The second year is the phase in which students deepen their existing skills, gain insight into the profession and become aware of their own intentions, which lay at the basis of their work and work processes.

Having been introduced to their chosen field, the Academy and the workshops during the propaedeutic phase, students use this basic knowledge in the second year to adopt positions in assignments of greater complexity. The reality of the professional field and the specific areas of attention it comprises are examined in greater depth. At the same time, students are urged to start formulating a vision and a dream for their future as a designer. Students are expected to demonstrate a greater degree of initiative, and they are challenged to develop and use their own personal preferences.

Interior versus Furniture

In the second year, students of Furniture Design and Interior Architecture follow separate design curricula. Although the projects are structured in the same way, the approach and content is tailored to the specific field. At the same time, this similar structure also offers opportunities for collaboration. The other domains are followed jointly by the second-year students.

In the second year, students are required to take two obligatory Morphology modules. The research component within both the design courses and the Morphology Labs increases with each study year. The courses offered by the department in the context of the Individual Study Track (IST) programme include modules known as Research Labs. These are also offered Academy-wide, giving them a more inter-disciplinary character.

The aim of the IST, which is compulsory for all students from the second year onward, is to add depth and breadth to the study programme. The condition is that the content of the track reflects the programme’s current design exercise and that this demonstrable connection to the IST can be assessed in the final assessment of the design exercise.

Students who wish to use the IST to add depth to their studies can choose to lay greater emphasis on the fundamental courses, make a selection from the KABK-wide range of interdisciplinary Research Labs and introductory courses, or choose to take a minor at Leiden University. The IST is accompanied by a study plan, which must be approved by the supervisor. Both the coach and the study adviser guide students in drawing up this plan.

The domain-specific knowledge and context of the second year consists of three main components:

1. Art appreciation
Through visits to exhibitions, museums, galleries, contemporary platforms for art, architecture and design, projects in the city, art in public spaces and buildings

2. Architectural theory
Concepts and frameworks, contemporary and current situation and context, anthropology and sociology (main theory course for students of Interior Architecture)

3. Design theory
Concepts and frameworks, contemporary and current situation and context, anthropology and sociology (main theory course for students of Furniture Design)

In the second year, Architectural Theory and Design theory are both linked to the project-based design courses and assignments on Mondays or Tuesdays, thus providing students with direct theoretical input and motivating them to delve even deeper into the theory. This constitutes an initial impulse for the development of individual preferences and original research. In addition, separate lectures and tutorials are programmed for each course, corresponding to the respective research topics. In the second year, within the framework of Interior Architecture and Furniture Design and the theory of architecture and design, attention is also paid to the anthropology of space and its usage, thus teaching students to regard our relationships with spaces and objects from an anthropological and sociological perspective. Space and object are investigated and experienced from a variety of perspectives, including from a spatial perspective (public and private), a user perspective (visitor, housekeeper), an action-related perspective (often culturally determined), a behavioural perspective (social and other types of behaviour) and the scripts that take place or should take place within them), and a sensory perspective how does it smell there?). The use and development of empathy plays a major role in this regard.

Main Phase/Year 3

Semesters 5 and 6

Mission: depth and connection

Core concepts in this part of the main phase include the following: reality check, skills, knowledge, practical and professional experience, employee vs. entrepreneur, internship and projects from internal studio/lab/workshop or external collaboration with the professional field, industry, authorities, companies and social organisations.

During this phase, students focus on developing their own work and individual approaches, which are expressed in personal questions or problem statements. The interaction between the artistic and the social environment also plays an important role in this phase.

The third study year mirrors the structure of the second year, with an additional focus on the links to professional practice. The exercises within the design domain attempt to add depth by specifically addressing the malleability of the designs. Students become aware of the consequences that result from a developed concept in terms of construction, materials and costs by carrying out a ‘reality check’. The practical exercises constitute an important aspect of the third-year curriculum. Students work on real assignments for external clients, in which implementation and realisation of the project within budgetary frameworks and a strict schedule play an important role. Such direct links to practice are also made through presentations in the Netherlands and abroad, including the annual presentation at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. Students are encouraged to work across disciplines as much as possible and to draw heavily upon the expertise, facilities and workshops available within the KABK. The Media and Materials domain and Knowledge and Context domain are explored in depth by focusing on specific themes and techniques. These over-arching topics emerge from the year theme, which often relates to a specific social context, and also provide direction in the other domains. In semester 5, each student writes an internship plan. In semester 6 students gain experience of professional practice in the form of an internship at a carefully and individually selected national or international design or architectural firm.

The capstone of the main phase is the memento, an assessment portfolio prepared during the second and third study years.

Main Phase + Final Phase/Year 4

Semesters 7 and 8 (Graduation)

Mission: positioning

Core concepts: manifestation, body of work, statement and portfolio, additional research, additional depth, essay/thesis, and collection building.

In the graduation phase, students focus on developing their individual position. The students determine their place in the professional field, manifesting this through their body of work, statement and portfolio. Additional depth is pursued through an essay and/or thesis.

The students create their own interior architecture or furniture collections, master the associated techniques and are able to present their collections in a convincing manner. The primary goal of the final phase, which culminates in a final examination, is to allow students to demonstrate their qualities as designers. This implies that they must be able to convert their ideas into concepts, architectural solutions, furniture and product solutions, form, material, technique and detail, in the context of one or more assignments. Examinations in Interior Architecture or Furniture Design consist of the following components:

1. Collection
Creating a design or multiple designs that address the entirety of the interior architectural or furniture collection or related collection in the broadest sense of the term. This is accomplished within thematic and self-developed assignments that allow the intensive realisation of an interior or furniture collection, whereby the thematic or locational context of the collection is presented to students in the form of the over-arching year theme. Individual students select their own independent positions within the design exercise, demonstrating that they are capable of applying the relevant techniques and skills needed to realise their designs optimally, based on the knowledge and experience gained in domain of media and materials.

2. Research by Design
Research by Design expresses the student’s personal design attitude. This design and research component is an extension of previous study projects that have been realised within the domain of morphology and/or the Individual Study Track.

3. Theoretic Research
One important aspect of the final phase is the theoretic research project: an essay (in a visual or written form) and/or thesis in which students are expected to position themselves and to reflect critically on the discipline, fascinations and the relationship to their own collections. The essay/ thesis explicitly addresses the knowledge acquired within the domain of knowledge and context. Individual students are expected to adopt specific positions with regard to current theories of architecture and design and position themselves within the current debate.

4. Body of work
Candidates must include previously realised designs and research (from preceding study years) in their complete final presentation and collection.

5. Entrepreneurship and the working landscape
Final examination, exhibition and the presentation of the collection. Another important aspect of the final phase is students’ visual and verbal presentation of their collection, in which they are expected to position themselves and to reflect critically on the discipline, fascinations and the relationship to their own collections. In the Academy-wide course Entrepreneurship, the students apply practical knowledge acquired during the lectures in a real-world setting through fictitious case studies. (Questions that are addressed include: How do I get assignments? How do I make invoices? How do I send invoices?) Students display and present their collections to the outside world in a variety of ways, for example through their portfolios or by creating their own websites and setting up PR and social media campaigns.



Student Portal

The student portal is the central instrument of communication for and by the department. News, practical announcements, curriculum, assignments, class schedules, calendars, task descriptions or other course information are placed on the portal.

The current and latest versions of the exercise structures for each study year are available via the IAFD student portal:

Assignment structures form the framework within which lecturers construct their assignments and curriculums. This working method ensures that a current, relevant and customised curriculum can be offered each semester.

The appendices of the assignment structure list the specific assignments structures and curriculums for each course per semester. These resources are available for download by students and lecturers. Lists of required, recommended and further reading are included in the curriculums and specific assignment. The assignments for each semester are also listed on the Downloads page (the last page of the portal).


Each semester, students work on two main projects, which involve design exercises consisting of different phases. Students can engage in project work during a concentrated period of 16 weeks. On Tuesdays or Wednesdays, the work domains are Morphology, the IST and the Academy-wide Research Labs. The rest of the weekly curriculum is largely devoted to the projects. Students usually receive theoretical instruction on Thursdays. The Media and Materials domain is scheduled on Fridays, focusing on a more autonomous exercise of skills.

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Last updated: 2017-03-28

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