February 23, 2022 Saldaña Connects Past with Present in Interior Architecture

headshot of Marie Saldana

During her first semester as an assistant professor in the School of Interior Architecture in fall 2021, Marie Saldaña, M.Arch, Ph.D., challenged her students to think about interior spaces differently than perhaps they had ever before. Now in her second semester, Saldaña is again bringing her multidisciplinary perspective to bear on interior design.

Saldaña’s unique studios reflect her multi-layered educational and research interests. She is a designer and historian who works at the intersection of architecture, new media and history. Since receiving her Ph.D. in Architecture from UCLA, she has taught digital history and spatial humanities at Stanford University, Rice University, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She applies this humanistic perspective in her studios by exploring the connections between interior space and the historical contexts of art, music and culture.

Saldaña’s current research explores conditions of edge and interior in the northern frontier of New Spain during the Spanish colonial period (1575-1821), which today is the Southwest U.S. and Northern Mexico. “I am interested in the ways in which people on the frontier negotiated the public and private spheres in their daily lives and how this is expressed in art and the built environment,” Saldaña said. “Interior space and material culture can reflect social conditions on many levels. As designers we can learn from historical examples in which people adapted their spaces and culture around the concerns of life on the frontier”

This research informs her current Interior Architecture studio, which is investigating ideas and practices of homesteading and artmaking in a contemporary urban context. Saldaña is also teaching a new elective, “Interior Perspectives on Art,” which explores the relationship between interior spaces, notions of interiority, art and material culture.

Saldaña believes that interiors are a medium that connects art with the practices of everyday life. She brings this idea to her teaching by helping students approach interior space through the study of embodied cognition, music, art and other important elements of culture that are underrepresented in historical narratives and spatial representations.

Intersecting architecture, culture and history elevates students’ ability to become empathetic and intuitive interior architects, something Saldaña uniquely brings to the School of Interior Architecture.