Study programme

The bachelor's programme in Interior Architecture and Furniture Design (IA & FD) covers the full breadth of the spatial domain and focuses on the spatial conditions that determine how we experience our everyday living environment. Each year, a central theme is chosen that inspires the department's activities. Some examples of themes are: Shrinkage-pruning-growth, (Dis)connect/Always on, Gender, en The Politics and Poetics of Landscape, Gardening the World, Movement, and Bioplasticene, no trace(s) left.

The four-year programme of the Bachelor 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 EXPLORE (Year 1), FOCUS & CONNECT (Years 2 and 3) and POSITION (Year 4).

This chronological structure is elaborated into five learning tracks, which constitute the domains that are addressed in each of the years of study. These five domains are:

Theoretical and practical learning skills are integrated in the design studios in which each student has their workstation.

Because the architecture and design courses that we give are embedded within an art academy context, the emphasis of the courses lies on the possible cultural and social role of design and architecture.

By using their ‘thinking’ hands, students experiment while working with materials and giving form; by making content, this way, they make surprising and unforeseen discoveries within their design process.

By offering to work on real assignments (for external clients) within the framework of the school, students train their professional practice skills.

An integral part of IA & FD learning is designing Events like the Open Day Presentation and the Department Dinner and taking part in them.

We analyse existing architecture and design projects to discover the decision-making process and how we could use this knowledge in planning new ones. They are given research methods that are used in the various disciplines of art, architecture and design. Through short lectures and preparation of papers, philosophical, cultural, social and political relations between design and society are explored.

Within this domain, students sharpen their critical and independent attitude and discover their unique way to position themselves within the art, architecture, and design context. In this, the emphasis for students is on learning to work independently, to make choices for their positioning in the field, and they are also given more choice in the supervision by teachers of their independently set up projects.

The first year starts with a Context project, then a Studio project, in the third year a Context and a Studio project, and in the final exam year the Graduation project & Thesis.

The curriculum is based on the principles of experimentation and research. Each academic year, the research focuses on specific areas or current topics, starting from a solid historical and cultural basis. In this way, new possibilities arise to reinterpret this basis and to integrate current issues into design experiments. Because these design experiments are often very personal, there is no standard process or method that can be followed.

By showing different methods, the teachers can guide you in finding and developing your own way of working. This also means that knowledge of the natural sciences, such as mechanics, biophysics, material and elementary qualities, is only taught on the basis of individual needs and necessity, depending on your own research.

Each of the five domains has an equal share in determining the quality of the total curriculum. We work in the IA & FD studio and in the workshops. Each student has their own workplace in the IA & FD studios. The projects that are developed benefit from the integration between the domains and by, for example, guest lectures built into the curriculum. Examples of these are: hand drawing classes, digital drawing classes, analogue and digital 3D model building, knowledge through the so-called Docking Stations (DOK), presentation workshops and more.

Courses & curriculum per year

What is paramount for your development as a critical as well as emphatic designer, is to be confronted with the world of designed products/results. The IA & FD department organises excursions, field trips, visits to building sites, studios, workshops, production plants, and exhibitions, but also encourages you to make your own walks through the interior of the city, the country, biking or traveling with the sole purpose of looking around you and experiencing how everything in the world is designed.

Programme structure


Most courses/modules have a duration of one semester. Some are taught a few hours, some half a day, some a day per week. In the week before the end of the semester, each module is assessed independently during the individual reviews by the responsible tutor through written feedback. Then, at the end of the semester, you will present all your work at the Collective Assessment. You receive collective feedback from the team of tutors that taught you during the past semester. Halfway through the semester, at the end of the first block, a progress evaluation is inserted to have an informal dialogue on the development of your work, also in relation to each other with a number of your tutors. In this week there are no regular classes apart from the academy-wide modules and IST projects.

Project weeks

The weeks following the collective assessments in the first semester and the beginning of the second semester (3 weeks in January) are used for project weeks. During a project week, one project is worked on which leads to a result at the end of the week. The content of one of the project weeks can f.i. focus on a presentation for the Open Day.

Another project week can be an experiment or initiative proposed by the students, or offering a specific skill that is missing from the curriculum, or be a way to work on one project in full concentration. During a project week, the working mode is the same as in a workshop.

The project week is intended to give students the opportunity to develop project management and self-reliance within the IA & FD programme. The project weeks are guided by tutors, guest lecturers or external experts; depending on the assignment and the location.

Mission: EXPLORE

During the first study year, the following core concepts play a central role: foundations of the discipline, fundaments, 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 you 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, you work on two main Studio projects, which involve design exercises composed in different phases. Project work takes place during a concentrated period of app. 15 weeks.

The morphology Studio is characterised by learning to work with space and form, form studies and sculpture. Investigations are fueled with input from other disciplines, working across disciplines. You are familiarised with the idiom of the architecture and design discipline by producing and experimenting and by making your hands speak. In the second semester you will follow an introduction on how you can program your Individual Study Trajectory, which will start in the second year of your studies. The aim of the IST, which is compulsory for all students from the second year onwards, is to add depth and breadth to the study programme of each BA department.

As part of the Media & Materials domain first-year students receive a thorough introduction to all departments and disciplines and to the wealth of facilities/workshops available throughout the Academy.

The Professional Practice domain is training you to design, organise and produce an event (the IA & FD Open Day), to present your assignments for assessment each semester, and to be a buddy to a graduate student helping with their graduation project.

In the first year, the Context domain consists of three main components. Architectural and Design History & Theory classes will give insight in the history and contemporary situations and context of architecture, design and visual arts, the Alchemy track will train your oral and writing skills for communicating the concepts and frameworks in your own work through mind maps and presentation exercises. All Bachelor students at the KABK take the module Research & Discourse during the propaedeutic phase. The module exists of a series of discussions on a number of case studies in art and design and gives exercises on how to do artistic research. It helps you to document investigations for the purpose of helping you to formulate your design attitude. And meet fellow students from other BA departments and learn from them.

The KABK also organises a Studium Generale lecture series for all students to attend. In addition, IAFD lectures are regularly organised within the various subjects, the theme of the year, for all study years.

Mission: FOCUS

Core concepts in the main phase are forecasting, back casting, visionary thinking, dreaming, the future, and the here and now in detail. The curriculum seeks to forge links to contemporary issues in both the national and international arena - to train your individual position in choosing a focus point within these themes. (Who am I as a designer? What would I like to work on)

Having been introduced to your chosen field, the academy and the workshops during the propaedeutic phase, you 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, you are urged to start formulating a vision and a dream for your future as a designer. You are expected to demonstrate a greater degree of initiative, and you are challenged to develop and use your own personal preferences, becoming aware of your own intentions.

Interior and Furniture

From the second year onwards, students of Furniture Design and Interior Architecture can follow separate design curricula. Although the projects offered in the elective Studio domain 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 studios of the Furniture Design department will focus more on deconstructing and reconstructing objects, discovering new resources and production methods. The Interior Architecture department focuses more on, for instance, the development of spatial organizational skills, tectonic exercises on skins and envelopes and social implications of building. The second-year students follow the other domains jointly.
The in-depth investigative component within the Studio domain increases with each study year. The Media & Materials domain will be mostly integrated in the Studios except for the Tempting Narrative course, in which you also develop your own personal graphic communication tools to define your relation with your (future) profession.

The courses offered by the department in the context of the Individual Study Track (IST) program 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 onwards, is to add depth and breadth to the study programme.

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 electives or a minor at Leiden University. The IST is accompanied by a study plan, which must be approved by the IST coach. Both the coach and the study advisor guide students in drawing up this plan.

The Context domain in the second year consists of three main components: Art, Architecture and Design History &Theory. Through a series of diverse lectures, you are introduced to a variety of relevant themes in art, architecture and design history and theory and how these topics have been used, researched and exploited by artists, architects and designers. By means of case study assignments in Alchemy, you are challenged to further scrutinize the concept of these themes, broadening your frame of reference, and to employ the concepts of these topics into your own work.

In the second (and third) year, the Context domain is also linked to one of the two Studios (per semester), referred to as DOK (docking station). These DOKs provide you with direct theoretical input and motivate you to delve even deeper into the theory of the assignment. This constitutes an initial impulse for the development of individual preferences and original research.

For all second-year students (IA & FD) the semester 1 Project Week will be linked to the Department Dinner that will be organised by them at the end of the KABK Open Day. Notwithstanding the project week’s open programme, the students will abide to some requirements, but these will prove to give an effective point of reference, and a shared responsibility vis-à-vis the IA & FD department.

Mission: CONNECT

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 collaborations with the professional field, industry, authorities, companies and social organisations.

During this phase, you will focus on developing your own work and individual approach, which is expressed in personal questions or challenging 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 Studio domain attempt to add depth by specifically addressing the malleability of the designs. You become aware of the challenges 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. You will work on real assignments for external clients, in which implementation and realization of the project within budgetary frameworks and a strict schedule play an important role. Recent projects include: Frame x KABK pop-up shop for the Dutch Design Week 2016 and 2017, PRADA x KABK 2021, Mentality - No Style!, a series of five events on the occasion of the 2017 centennial of De Stijl, IAFD x Forbo Flooring 2019, the scenography for The Nutcracker Suite in collaboration with the Jazz section of the Royal Conservatoire, and more. Such direct links to practice are also made through presentations in the Netherlands (DDW) and abroad, including the bi-annual presentation at the Salone del Mobile in Milan.

You 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 Context domain are further explored by focusing on specific themes and techniques. These overarching topics emerge from the year theme, which often relates to a specific social context, and also provide direction in the other domains. One of the courses is directly related to writing about, editing and art direction of your work.

In semester 5, each student writes an internship plan including the development of an individual and expressive portfolio in order to obtain a place in the company or environment that suits you or interests you the most. The capstone of the main phase is this assessment portfolio prepared during the second and third study years.

In semester 6 you will be familiarised with professional practice in the form of an internship at a carefully and individually selected national or international design or architectural firm, an artist studio, governmental or non-profit organisation, or an artisan studio. Halfway through the internship period, at the internship return day, all students will give a presentation about their experiences to their fellow students, the internship coordinator and the 2nd year students. The internship concludes with a written report.


Core concepts in the fourth year include: conceptual framework, manifestation, body of work, statement and portfolio, additional research, additional depth, paper/thesis, and building a collection.

In the graduation phase, you will focus on developing your individual position by formulating a conceptual framework. You will determine your place in the professional field, manifesting this through your body of work, statement and portfolio. Additional depth is pursued through a paper or thesis. You will create your own architecture or design projects, master the associated techniques and are able to present your projects in a convincing manner.

The primary goal of the final phase, which culminates in a final examination, is to allow you to demonstrate your qualities as a designer. This implies that you must be able to convert your ideas into concepts, architectural solutions, furniture and product solutions, form, material, technique and detail. All of this, in the context of two assignments: an applied assignment in semester seven and a self-initiated graduation project in semester eight.

In semester 7 you work on an applied assignment that testifies as a sort of ‘master proof’ to the skills you have obtained in designing and realizing projects. In the applied assignment, you go through all the conventional stages of the development and execution of a design from sketch proposal, to preliminary proposal, to definite design and budget, to working drawings, to execute within budget.

Within the Context domain, the thesis is the outcome of an individual and self-initiated research – using language (among others) as a tool to order intuitive and associative reflections. The thesis functions as a well-founded manifesto – a mission statement – that can link with the graduation project. Positioning & Presentation, within the Professional Practice domain, is a permanent workshop that addresses all essential, structural support regarding (re)presentation and additional connections to practice, all other domains and other disciplines. Workshops and lectures will offer useful exercises, hands-on research and practical support. The preparation of the semester 8 Field Trip will also take the form of a workshop, resulting in a travelogue.

The semester 8 examinations in Interior Architecture or Furniture Design consist of the following components:

  1. Projects: Graduation Project and Applied Assignment
    You are able to create multiple designs that address one or more issues of the entirety of the (interior) architectural or (furniture) design field in the broadest sense of the term. This is accomplished within a thematic and self-developed graduation assignment that relates your design, project, work to a thematic or locational context. Individual students select their own independent positions within an applied assignment, demonstrating that they are capable of applying the relevant techniques and skills needed to realize their designs optimally, based on the knowledge and experience gained in all domains.
  2. Research by design (IST)
    Research by Design expresses your personal design attitude. This design and research component is an extension of previous study projects that have been realised within the domains of the Studios, Morphology, Knowledge and/or the Individual Study Track. It’s about having an insight in your way of working, and being able to use this insight to define and formulate your graduation project design brief.
  3. Theoretical 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 you are expected to position yourself and to reflect critically on the discipline, your fascinations and the relationship to your own work. The essay/ thesis explicitly addresses the knowledge acquired within the Knowledge domain. You are expected to adopt specific positions with regard to current theories on architecture and design and position yourself within the current discourse.
  4. Body of work
    You can include previously realised designs and research (from preceding study years) in your final Graduation presentation and exhibition.
  5. Professional practice and the professional context
    The final examination, the graduation exhibition and the presentation of the graduation projects will be part of a public event: the Graduation Festival. Here, the most important aspect is the visual and verbal presentation of your graduation projects. You are expected to position yourself and your work within the discipline. There is a variety of ways in which you can present your work to the outside world, for example through your graduation portfolio or by creating your own professional website and setting up PR and social media campaigns.

Social role of design

IA & FD: A place for education in Interior Architecture & Furniture Design

In a society where the pace is fast and rapid change has become a commodity, we have to look carefully at how to position new generations of designers and architects.

We have to ask ourselves what disciplines entail nowadays, how they function within the greater complexity of our society, and how they produce knowledge and environments that affect the wellbeing of us human species, but also other species and the planet. The elusive way society is organized nowadays, directly affects our daily routines and shapes our physical environment, but also provides opportunities to change behavior and the organization of everyday life by proposing speculative, innovative and imaginary interiors, landscapes and furniture.

At the same time, we see how most of the design practices for (interior) architecture and (furniture) design are embedded in larger economic cycles that require a lot of stamina and perseverance to transform or alter specific flows, narratives or developments. Success and failure are validated through media and market value, and these are by default, conservative. We need to make sure that the students we educate are aware of this paradoxical and unstable situation. They have to become aware of what this means for the profession, and for the professional practice in the near future. Agility and adaptability are essential as well as resilience and agency to be able to propose an alternative agenda. And from there, we can identify new tasks, and new challenges.

The department has chosen to look closer into the cultural aspects of the disciplines, design & architecture, next to the economic or functional. You could say that concepts like critical reflection, narration, speculation, and imagination are more commonly used than problem solving and physical wellbeing, which doesn’t mean that projects and the work of the students are not material-based or not practical.

By coining the scientific and knowledge-based part with a poetical, imaginative, and narrative part, we give students the chance to overcome or resist specific ingrained procedures and mechanisms that are part of a permanent change in the service of capitalism.

Learning Objectives

LOUISE Schouwenberg, MARINA Otero Verzier, CHRIS Kabel and BAS van Tol are members of the professional advisory committee IA & FD, and helped to shape the learning objectives)

In our three main learning objectives we find inspiration and wonder in the formulation of the 1919 Bauhaus foundation rules by director Walter Gropius. Although the rules were formulated more than a hundred years ago, we think they are more applicable than ever.

from the Bauhaus ‘rules’:
No undisputed knowledge.
Animation of students to engage with research-based instruction.
a. Theory=Practice, Practice=Theory the meaning of materials including words…..

from the Bauhaus ‘rules’:
Academy absorbed into the workshops.
b. Learning by doing to start the cycle of design in having ideas, testing ideas, rethinking and improving the result.

from the Bauhaus ‘rules’:
Application of findings in everyday life in order to have an impact on society.
c. Design = Collaboration individual and collective ‘ownership’

These three learning objectives are crucial to our education values. We choose specifically for an ‘and, and, and……’ strategy. We use cross-pollination, interweaving and intertwining of the different educational domains (Knowledge, Studio, Media & Materials, Independent Practice, Professional Practice) and a multidisciplinary approach towards the specializations Interior Architecture & Furniture Design to provide the student with the qualities to develop a versatile and agile practice.

The culture and community of the department is shaped by this inquisitive attitude and is aimed to provide a network for students and alumni even after school. Each student will be able to gather their own insights in their studies, strengthening already existing qualities, gaining new skills and discover working methods that suit specifically to the direction and position the student is aiming for. At the same time, the culture of the department and the specific student population will help students to position themselves individually as well as collectively.

the meaning of materials including words….- Intuitive makers & analytical minds

The starting point and focus for a design/work can be manifold. In the curriculum, we offer many design and research methods. In one project materials, and making is the starting point, in another a theoretical essay, in yet another a mix of both. We consider all these methods of design and research equal. We work with professionals that teach with the experience from their practice, whether this is theory or practice-based.

We also make students aware that situated knowledge and academic knowledge can be mutually beneficial for the projects they develop. The different ways of research, whether art-related, design-related or architecture-related, are supported by specific knowledge-based courses. Students can experience the differences, and choose consequently. This implies a pro-active study attitude. With a variety of exercises, we help students to choose independently and take positions.

Specifically, the materialization* of ideas is a major concern for the department. To make experiences and scenario’s tangible, to develop intermediate products that can play a significant role in making characteristic and site-specific spaces. The power of an analytical mind with a talent for making things tangible is an asset in a vast range of practices, either following the educational path (MA and PhD) or the professional path, or overlap of both.

*MARINA: With the term materialization it is important to talk about the scopes and scales of operation (transmaterial or trans-scalar), and how these translate in different understandings of materiality. For instance, a student can propose a new policy for regulating the furniture in public spaces. The materialization here is understood in a different way as if the project would consist of designing a piece of furniture.

authorship and the collective

As a department, we invest in the ability for future designers to work in multidisciplinary teams and acknowledge the importance and necessity of the collective effort*1, questioning the role of the author as solitary visionary and the ultimate starting point for any creative expression. We plead for an *2authorship that does justice to the individual ownership for the author, in order to be able to engage in collaborations with other departments, companies, craftspeople, and institutions. The individual artistic talent should be embedded and recognized in a context, by collaboration or cooperation, with organic and inorganic material, living and thinking entities, and surroundings (the ‘Umwelt’). The recognition of being entangled in a creative, economic as well as existential ecosystem, redefines our parameters for design and its context.

*1MARINA: Collaboration doesn’t mean anonymity. The individual is part of the collective, but individual positions are negotiated to give shape to collective ones. This doesn’t mean that the collective is a unified, solid block, but rather a polyphonic body that wants to “stay with the trouble.” The position of the author many times is understood as an ideological, uncompromising, personal position that resists the societal pressures in order to produce a unique work or thought. But perhaps more than ever, today we need alliances, we need forms of solidarity, and collective thinking. The group is not there to kill the visionaries or any vision, but to actually support or contest, or add to, challenge, improve, to make public.

*2LOUISE: There are many understandings of what an author is. The market has employed authorship as a branding tool, highlighting the star designer as a person and signature design as style. I plead for authorship as ‘owning’ the whole story of what one tells, taking full responsibility, and engaging in collaboration from a strong stance.

Dreamers & Achievers

We use the department as a testing ground and in-situ experimental setting for social interaction as well as interactions with materials, techniques and different forms of knowledge; academic & situated. We underscore the essence of a design and design development that works on a daily basis, and is also fed by routines and exercises. Not in order to be in control, but to be able to use them as companions in the development of situations that suit our needs and desires as well as those of the society as a whole.

Learning by doing also means learning by testing*.

Learning by doing needs a specific courage and encouragement. An open-minded view on the disciplines often helps. We stimulate a particular pride in working with definitions like ephemeral, temporality, prototyping, conversation, construction of reality, as found, improvisation, surprise, the unforeseen, and the unfinished.

*CHRIS: The cycle of a design development should embrace the implementation, testing and exposure of concepts, ideas and prototypes to check their validity. Scary as it may be, as the testing could undermine the vision, it could also be a very healthy and cathartic experience as it requires adapting, re-thinking and improving the designs in order to position them in a larger disciplinary or societal framework.

Competencies & assessment components

The IA & FD department follows the competencies that have been drawn up for art education in the Netherlands. These competencies are sharpened in each academic year.

  • Creative ability
  • Capacity for critical reflection
  • Capacity for growth and innovation
  • Organisational ability
  • Communicative ability
  • External awareness
  • Capacity for collaboration

Other evaluation criteria relate to project education:

  • Research/Analysis
  • Idea/Concept/Vision
  • Presentation - oral, visual
  • Design qualities

Further education

Graduates of the Bachelor of Interior Architecture & Furniture Design can apply for a master's degree or another postgraduate program at an art academy, such as the Sandberg Institute or the Jan van Eyck, the Academy of Architecture (Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten) or the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture. Continuing your studies at one of the technical universities (such as TUDelft) is also possible, but you will have to take a bridging programme first. Possible studies abroad include AA London, Cooper Union NYC, UdK Berlin, Staedelschule Frankfurt. At the KABK, graduates can choose to continue their studies at the Master Interior Architecture (INSIDE) or one of the other Master's programmes.