Friday, December 28, 2012

All the lovely lights

We may be snow free here in San Francisco but we have been looking around to some colorful winter wonderlands for our white Christmas inspiration this year. In lots of cities around the world that lack pine forests beautifully encrusted in white snow architectural lighting stands in and rings in the holiday cheer. Lights, originally candles then white bulb lights then to the more modern multicolored, blinking, fading, etc, have long been one of the corner stones of the Christmas celebration.

Its not hard to see why we celebrate light in a season in which, for those in northern climates and from which the celebration originated, the winter means short harsh days and dark freezing cold nights. Not only have we taken to decorating our homes and trees with the small twinkling lights, some even shaped to look like blankets of snow caught on the eves, but our larger downtown and government building use architectural lighting to create whimsical, beautiful, and resoundingly modern displays.
Denver, Colorado has a long standing colorful tradition for their capitol building as well. They even threw in a Peace on Earth sign in for good measure. Via Flickr

Winter in Ottawa, Canada is especially cold and dark but the are lighting up the cheer with this colorful and bright winter themed lights display on the capitol building via Ottawa Rickshaws
Though we are celebrating these wonderful creating we should also keep in mind the extra electric and resources these displays take up and be mindful of conserving in other areas to compensate.  Keeping the heat lower and wearing a sweater for example. We hope everyone has a warm bright winter season this year. Thank you for reading our posts this year and thank you for all the color you bring to the world. Oh and if you think governments and businesses have the upper hands when it comes to amazing holiday lights, this video will change your mind.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Grey Grey Winter

It is winter here again in San Francisco and while we don't get snow,  cold winds and constant rain,  definitely  can give one the winter greys. And when  life gives you charcoal clouds why not use them to make silver linings.  Grey  offers an alternative when trying to avoid the strict contrast between saturated black or  crisp white.

Slate Grey Kitchen via Jamie and Byron House Tour
Grey Bedroom via Heaven and Home
While we have waxed poetic before on the subject of grey as  an important neutral color when deciding on your home color palette, we have left it out of most of our seasonal decorating schemes. The effects of season changes, like fewer hours of sunlight and dipping temperatures dampen our moods. We have traditionally turned to  reds and greens for temporary colorful relief from the bleak of winter. But in a world where technology makes all colors in season all the time,  maybe we should embrace a bit of grey and fully embrace winter. 

Ghostly White Wreath via AM Growers
There are an ocean of white twinkling lights made to look like snow for those of us that don't get snow. There are inflatable Santa's riding on puffy sleighs,  trees flocked with fake snow and snowy window dressings.  This beautiful grey green  winter wreath is made from  lambs ear, a hearty plant with a soft cottony coating.  The the elegant string lights below celebrate the twinkle with a bit of silvery sting. 

Starry String Lights via Restoration Hardware
Christmas tree decorations, glass bulbs, candles, stocking, and garlands all come in graceful grey or charcoal. Last year we may have encouraged the rampant use of gaudy neons sprinkled in with your red and greens but this year we are more in the mood for a quiet contemplative winter. A bit of grey around feels like a warm blanket to comfort us through the cold and never ending rain. What color do you need this winter?

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Friday, December 7, 2012

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Normally around here we like to like to focus on color in architecture, homes, science and history but this week we wanted to show you our nerdy side. We admit it. We are bookish color nerds. Conveniently for us this particular Venn diagram of conditions is perfectly covered by a wonderful book, Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. 

Shades of Grey Cover via Fforde's site

The book description begins with the intriguing:

"It's summer, it's hot, it's our world, but not as we know it. Entire cities lie buried beneath overgrown fields and forests. Technology from another time litters the landscape, and there is evidence of great upheaval  Welcome to Chromatacia, where for as long as anyone can remember society has been ruled by a Colorocracy. From Underground feed pipes that keep the municipal park green, to the healing hues viewed to cure illness, to a social hierarchy based upon one's limited color perception, society is dominated by color. In this world you are what you can see."
What a Green Citizen sees via Bob Stewperson

The wonderfully odd spelling of his name aside this book is a joy to read. It begins with the premise that in the alternate future everyone's color vision has been reduced to one color of the spectrum, leaving everything else grey scale. The color you can see determines which strata of social class you belong to.  The Greys who see no color all  are on the bottom strata while the class structure moves through the spectrum all the way to the   elite Purples. The whole society is structured by and obsessed with color. Character names come from hues and CMY color is piped in to keep the cities bright. Why? Because while their vision for natural color is rudimentary for some unexplained reason everyone can see synthetic color.

Can you imagine being a purple? Sure it comes with the highest social status but you would see so little natural color in the world. Fforde does a great job of taking all the implications of this colorless and also color dominated society to their logical extremes. The system of laws is intricate and wonderful, the marriage contracts, the technology, the habits of daily life all feel richly steeped in the color mythology. For a mostly grey world Fforde painted a bright and colorful picture. We highly recommend a read for our fellow color obsessed readers out there.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Modern Skyline, Part One

Chicago River Skyline via Wikipedia
Cities today are huge influences on our lives. They are where most people live, work, create and invent.  They even influence even our walking speed. Looking at the emergent color of city skylines is one way of tracking the evolution of our dominant building materials as well as advancement in engineering skills and changing architectural trends.   Many cities have major buildings from a scattering of decades all packed in together. Historically the skyline had a decidedly earth tone palette.  The  buildings were constructed from regional stone, masonry and brick made with  soils from the geographic locale. This  view of the Chicago skyline is dominated by a color scheme of  muted grays and browns. The earth tones suggest the feeling of  strength and solidity while still being friendly  and inviting. But what will our future skylines look like?

Current Skyline Color Pallet
A rendering of the future skyline of Abu Dhabi via Construction Weekly
With the recent construction booms in China and the Middle East,  they are good places to look for the future of skylines. The rendering above is a projection of what Abu Dhabi will look like in coming decades. Shapes or placements of specific buildings may change but the color trend is clear. Admittedly all glass and metal buildings are taking over city space. The crystalline blue of the sky reflects in the glass but there is little other color.  The city skyline seems to inching toward grey scale.  With so little color the shining city of the future starts to look monochromatic.

Future Skyline Color Pallet
We are moving away from paint and nature based building materials.  Glass and steel  are the new kings of architecture. Color is left to the lighted signs of advertisers. These colors compete for our attention in busy outdoor environments.  Advancements in light technology and  flat screen projections  create  increasingly brighter and visually stimulating experiences  as evidenced by this Tokyo street corner at night.  The colors bleed together on the wet sidewalks. The future of cities and our everyday experience of color is definitely changing. On our next post we will highlight a few beautiful architectural anomalies in the skyscraper business and see how they are using shape instead of color to differentiate themselves in a glass and steel world.

Tokyo via Tokyo Nights Tumblr

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

The Modern Skyline, Part Two

New York in the New York skyline via Notoriety Inc.
In our most recent post we talked about the encroaching grey scale of modern skylines. In this post we wanted to show you a few ways architects have used shape, instead of color, to differentiate their creations from the surrounding buildings. The visual appearance of  predominately flat high gloss buildings has become ubiquitous as  glass and steel become the preferred materials for skyscrapers. But within those constraints some very unique buildings have been recently designed.

This is Aqua, a skyscraper in Chicago completed in 2010. It was designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. The building won many awards for it ground breaking design. The wave like surface is made with a series of curved balconies, wrapping around the building in ripples.

Aqua via Wikipedia
With a tall rectangular core and floor to ceiling windows, the basic structure of the Aqua makes it sound like it would melt into the background  of  similar  downtown buildings.   The unique design of the curving  building skin makes it stand out dramatically. Even though this building lacks  color variation from it neighbors it curved balconies give the over all structure a twisting undulating motion to the eye creating contrasts in color value. These wave forms, inspired by nature, are a unique way to augment the standard steel and glass skyscraper. 
Aqua in the Chicago skyline via Critique This
Another great example of this  direction in skyscrapers is the Frank Gehry residential high rise in New York.
These rippling buildings look a bit like pebbles disturbing a smooth pond. They are breaking out of the formalized vertical  curtain wall of the modern high rise. Gehry himself says the building is an architectural representation of the texture and energy of the city. Ripples pass through the seemingly other wise standard flat steel and glass high rise as through the winds were pulling the surface along with it. Their site has a great video showing the interaction of the  the building with the city.

New York via Notoriety Inc.
Up close we can see that Gehry too is using a fairly standard  high rise model which is then augmented with shaped balconies and windowsills. These two building are great example of natural/modern hybrid skyscrapers. But not all uses of this shape focused innovation have come out to critical acclaim. While not a high rise, the new Burberry flagship store in Chicago definitely tried to innovate inside the contemporary gray-scale palette.

Burberry Flagship Store in Chicago via Burberry's Google Plus page
Architectural Record put it this way "Burberry works hard to hold on to an upper-crust image and to look forward at the same time. The clothing, accessories and ads do all that. But this building, with its backlit, angled, checked pattern is the dissonant score in the company repertoire. It is loud and vulgar. It's the car salesman who won't go away. Worst of all, it's not architecture -- it's a building as billboard." The architectural criticism is harsh and suggests the design concept was to cover the building  in Burberry plaid.  While still colorless  and monochromatic, the contrasts in  light and dark  color value are notable    Lets hope that color will tag along with shape innovation and lead to the potential for chromatic skylines in the future.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio