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RD Highlight Liz Teston

Relationships for the Long Haul

Liz Teston, associate professor in the School of Interior Architecture first met Hannah Schmidt, research development manager, at a departmental meeting focused on funding opportunities.

Over several months they worked on a variety of projects, including an internal proposal review panel and a seed funding application. In the process, they developed an understanding of each other’s areas of expertise.

In 2022 Teston was one of four in the US to receive the prestigious Arnold W. Brunner Grant for Architectural Research to explore her interests in a concept known as public interiority. The Arnold W. Brunner Grant is awarded to mid-career architects for advanced study in any area of architectural investigation that contributes to the knowledge, teaching, or practice of the art and science of architecture. For Teston, that area is public interiority.

Teston explained that public interiority engages with critical issues in architecture by advocating for interior-feeling exterior urban places. Her work addresses the crafting of mobile conditions of interiority in the late-COVID context and beyond, and asks what is the nature of interiority?

An example of public interiority located in downtown Knoxville is a sculpture of two women on a bench in Krutch Park. In this case, Teston said, the bench serves as a screening device that defines the space, and its orientation to the city creates the psychological condition and space for an intimate conversation.

Teston’s project uses multi-city case studies to investigate conditional interiors via atmosphere, form, politics, program, and psychology, while bridging communities and generating dialogue about interiority.

Teston said her collaboration with Schmidt has supported her research agenda by helping chart her research path, sending targeted funding opportunities, and editing and advising her on applications.

“Because Hannah knows my work, she can curate her opportunities lists to my interests. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for grants, and now she sends them to me as she sees alignment,” she says. “Hannah understands what we do and she understands the message we want to convey. She makes sure I don’t get off-target in my writing. She reaffirms and redirects, as appropriate.”

The Brunner award will enable Teston to share her research findings via a monograph, exhibitions, and symposia in several cities, including New York, London, Bucharest, Knoxville, and Nashville.

Teston’s academic research in interior design has a three-fold focus: memory and cultural identity, everyday issues and design politics, and public interiority. As she has continued to work with Schmidt, she has discovered new opportunities to further that work.

“I tell my colleagues it’s in our best interests to tap into the assistance available at ORIED. The more we collaborate with Hannah and her colleagues, the more they can help us.”

For more information, contact Schmidt @