Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Community of the Future is Filled with Color

This month I participated in a think tank salon hosted and moderated by Deborah Patton Executive Director of The Center for Applied Brilliance. The venue was the West Coast Green Conference 2010. Marc Hinshaw, architect, Jerry Michalski, relationship economy expert and Susan Goltsman, planner and landscape architect, joined me on the panel. We each were asked to develop our presentations around the idea of The Future of Community. The panel did not communicate prior to the presentation yet the amount of agreement in our perceptions of the future was synergistic.

Images: Architect Will Alsop's designs for his City of the Future Vancouver, Canada

I started research on color and architecture. I found myself online looking at images from Europe and Asia of both environmentally responsible and colorful architecture. Why are other cultures so much more willing to use color on buildings than we are?

Image: Low2No ARUP with Sauerbruch and Hutton. Winning design to develop the 1st carbon neutral development in Helsinki, Finland

Is there a fear of color in our culture? I believe there is. An excellent book supporting this argument is Chromophobia, by David Batchelor. Batchelor defines the principle of chromophobia as a fear of corruption or contamination through color that has lurked in Western culture since ancient times. He argues that chromophobia is apparent in the many attempts to purge color from art, literature, and architecture either by making it the property of some foreign body, the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar or the pathological or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the inessential, the cosmetic.

Image: Chromaphobia by David Batchelor

Additionally, negative color statements have been made by people who are Icons in our field.

Even though Corbusier only produced one all white building, he is historically known for his crusade for white.

Image: Corbusier in his studio

Image: Corbusier design for a chapel in Rome

Richard Meier typically produces all white buildings and is a crusader for white.

Image: Richard Meier

Image: Jubilee Church in Rome, Italy

Image: The Getty Museum in Los Angeles California

As we become more global in all aspects of our experience, I predict the fear of color in architecture may shift.

Image: Photographer - Jerry Levy

With dwindling resources, and tight budgets, we have to rethink the materials and finishes we have available for construction. Color has the ability to trigger responses, and communicate volume, form, scale and detail. Color is in a position to assert itself as a viable tool to articulate architecture.

Image: Herzog and Demeuron highrise in Beijing, China

I remain optimistic that color will be used as a resource in the creation of spaces that have both sensual character and memorable qualities.

Image: Sauerbrach and Hutton - Highbay Warehouse for Sedus in the Black Forest

I will crusade for color !


  1. Great post! I wholeheartedly agree that fear is a major component in the absence of color in our society. And the misperception that white is the best color to show off the shape of an architectural structure.

    Couple of things you might be interested in:

    ktcolor has a line of Corbusier paint

    my post (from a residential perspective) on The Fear of Color:

    I, too, will crusade for color!!!

  2. I would love to have attended that talk- sounds fascinating. Is there a recording of the panel anywhere online, perhaps?
    I will crusade, as well!

  3. I second that. I am all for a COLOR revolution!!

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