AMES, Iowa — If you think interior design is all about paint colors, fabric swatches and furniture styles, think again. Students in an Iowa State University graduate studio have propelled interior design to a place it’s never been before: the 21st century combat outpost.Students in the advanced experimental studio class created environments that support combat soldiers’ mental health and help alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD). Their designs balance privacy and connection, relaxation and security, meditation and activity.The 1920s cots (yes, they’re still used), standard-issue tents and hanging-poncho privacy dividers are replaced with individual spaces that soldiers can personalize and control. Communal spaces are strong and masculine; personal spaces are soft and soothing.Believed to be the only class of its kind, “In Harm’s Way: Interior Design for Modern Combat” is the brainchild of Interior Design Professor and Chair Lee Cagley.
While I can see some immediate challenges (primarily logistical) that is an interesting subject. For small units, quarters are primarily their own problem. That is, if you’re a platoon assigned to occupy and build a COP in the middle of Afghanistan, you’re not going to have a lot of engineering support. Your going to be living in tentage and maybe repurposed Conex boxes mostly.
But the major Forward Operating Bases will have plenty of support. CHU farms, and mess halls, laundries and practically every other service found on a stateside military installation are used.
There’s generally a reason why the Army does things the way it does, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be willing to look outside for better ways.