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The annual Oberfield lecture was founded as a memorial to Gil Oberfiled, AIA, former member and chair of the AIANY Interiors Committee. The lecture brings to the podium speakers whose work excels in the field of interior architecture.

This year’s lecturers are the principals of the award-winning firm LEVENBETTS with the theme OPEN to Interpretation.

What constitutes a space? Where does a space stop and start? Does a space need walls and a roof to create enclosure? Can an interior be outside? Can an interior space be considered “urban”—an urban interior? In our complex urban present, design has the capacity to dissolve boundaries and incite interconnection. Cities, buildings, interiors and objects interrelate not by scale distinctions and traditional confines but through an open approach to space-making where the experience from the city to the interior collapses. So, an interior can be urban and an urban space can have the intimacy of an interior.

Who gets access to space? What spaces are public and what spaces are private? How is a space organized? Is space hierarchical? Space is political. No matter who space is designed for, the act of space-making demands that the designer interrogate embedded preconceptions of the politics of space. History is not innocent and architecture is not neutral. Space designed for equity, transparency, accessibility and diversity dispenses with exclusivity and celebrates the imagination of new futures.

Is space prescriptive? How and why is a space allocated? When designed to be open and informal, the qualities of space take the lead while pre-prescribed program recedes. Design that is conceived through the lenses of spatial specificity, the elements of building and the consciousness of the surrounding environment invites interpretive misuse and welcomes a diversity of experience.

OPEN to Interpretation is a lecture by Stella Betts and David Leven that addresses these questions through a selection of projects that include academic spaces, public libraries, installation, and houses.

LEVENBETTS is a New York City-based architecture practice focusing on design at all scales, including urban design, public architecture, houses and housing, commercial workspaces, exhibitions, and furniture. LEVENBETTS has received both national and international recognition including ten AIA New York awards, two AIA New York State awards, and two Chicago Athenaem awards. They were featured in the Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices in 2009 and as part of Architectural Record’s Design Vanguard in 2003. A monograph of the first ten years of their practice was published in 2009 by Princeton Architectural Press. LEVENBETTS is currently working on a book of their houses.

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