The staff and 2018 graduating cohort from UNSW Built Environment’s Bachelor of Interior Architecture (Hons) (BIA) degree have established the first BIA International Professional Placement Travel Grant.

A collaborative initiative between students and staff, the Travel Grant supports one third- or fourth-year BIA student to undertake an international Professional Placement.

In 2019, the program will launch in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The placement will be hosted by Sa Sa Art Projects, a community-based contemporary arts NGO in Cambodia, which has developed a strong partnership with UNSW BIA through the annual Street Life Studies summer elective, also held in Phnom Penh.

The partnership sees one BIA student work with an Architecture graduate from the Cambodian Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) to support with the curation of an urbanism festival, ‘Sensing the Capital’, under the mentorship of Sa Sa Art Projects’ artistic director Lyno Vuth and architect Pen Sereypagna.

Mr Vuth believes in the importance of collaboration within creative practice and sees the program as an opportunity to enact this. 

“We appreciate and value the reciprocal exchange nurtured by the placement. The placement is an opportunity not only for students to engage with our practice but to learn from one another.”

Mr Sereypagna, architect and director of The Vann Molyvann Project, a partner to Sa Sa Art Projects in the program, values the input that will be brought by students from cross-cultural backgrounds. 

 “We are excited to see how alternate perspectives will form an urbanism festival that aims to engage with the spaces, cultures and people of Phnom Penh.”

The placement will run alongside the annual Street Life Studies summer elective, also held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In 2019, leading design firm Stubbs Design Tribe, a key industry partner of BIA, has supported the Travel Grant.

Jennifer Snyder, General Manager, Business and Marketing at Stubbs Design Tribe, said it was essential to support future generations of designers and open up design theory to global contexts.

“For us, it’s about being a part of the foundations of design learning and mentoring in a global context, and having the opportunity to see talent move from theory to practice is extremely rewarding,” she said.

Discipline Director: Interior Architecture Program, Lisa Zamberlan, said the grant was an example of the invaluable opportunities on offer through the BIA program.

“The BIA International Professional Placement Travel Grant will lay the platform for future global partnerships and opportunities for collaboration, and continue to support design organisations in developing contexts.”

“The program aims to foster learning exchange across city contexts and establish an ethos of social agency as an inherent responsibility of all design professionals.”

Interior Architecture Lecturer Eva Lloyd was also instrumental in establishing the grant, having spent time working as an architect in Cambodia and establishing the Street Life Studies: Cambodia summer elective course.

Ms Lloyd, also a graduate from the BIA program, says the international partnership with Sa Sa Art Projects is a means of supporting local designers and artists in disadvantaged communities. 

“Partnering with Sa Sa Art Projects means supporting emerging Cambodian designers and artists. Strengthening our relationship with this NGO is also extremely valuable for BIA students who are exposed first-hand to community-based practice work in a developing city context.

“The long-term vision is to expand learning exchange across cultures, by pairing UNSW and Cambodian students in industry placements, both in Phnom Penh and in Sydney.”

The first recipient of the grant will be fourth-year Interior Architecture student Diana Espiritu.

Diana Espiritu is the first recipient of BIA International Professional Placement Travel Grant, supported in 2019 by Stubbs Design Tribe.

Ms Espiritu said that the valuable experience she gained during the annual Street Life Studies summer elective was instrumental in her decision to apply. 

“After completing the Street Life Studies course, I realised that I gained a whole change in perspective, not only in the way in which I approach design but the way I interpret the roles of Interior Architecture and the built environment in the wider world.

“[I have] a strong interest and passion in tackling political and social issues through design and art … I believe that the professional placement will provide me with [another] invaluable experience.”

The Bachelor of Interior Architecture (Honours) at UNSW Built Environment teaches students how to influence people’s lives through the interior environments they inhabit. Find out more about the degree.