Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The School of Color

We have written posts  before about the importance of color in school environments so this week we wanted to show you a fantastic new school overhaul using color to its every advantage. Braamcamp Freire Secondary School just outside of Lisbon  was originally built in 1986 as five prefabricated buildings. Prefabricated housing and architecture have come along way in recent year but back in the 80's it meant something close to late 1960's brutalism: grey unicolor structures with poor lighting and that special lingering prefab smell. 

Recently this school has undergone a massive and colorfully considered overhaul. The reclamation project was a result of Portugal's "Modernisation of Secondary Schools Programme," a country wide initiative aimed at not only making schools more useable by reorganizing spaces and adding visual cues to indicate the use of different spaces, but also to  make school buildings available  for community based functions. 

There is a crisis in education these days over everything from tests scores, kids being bored, what should be taught in our new information technology world, summer breaks, and teacher review systems. While color and architecture can't address all of those factors, it can play an important role in making the kids feel like they want to go to school to learn.  This school has gone from five disconnected building with little thoughtful interaction to an energetic campus.

Such bright colors might seem at first seem too primary, too saturated, or too intense, but that's just the point.  When hundreds of kids have to sit in the same building day after day after day, especially one that was formerly entirely grey concrete,  the  new colorful environment  contributes visual stimulus  to  combat the cognitive stupor.    The bold pops of primary colors reorient the eye from  an undifferentiated mass of grey concerte to individual spaces, and pathways.   

Not just visual components were added in the hope of keeping the kids on track, the overhaul addressed auditory problems as well. As anyone who has ever been in a fully concrete building can attest, sounds tend to travel. The architects added  acoustic panels and special punctured concrete blocks to cut down on hallway noise which can be a huge source of distraction for the kids. 

Project: ES / EB3 Braamcamp Freire
Location: Pontinha, Lisboa, Portugal
Client: Parque Escolar, EPE
Total built area: 15,800 m2
Project and construction period: 2010 – 2012

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

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Color to the Max

Urban Interiorities by Virginia Melnyk and Tiffany Dahlen
This Japanese nightclub's candyland concept was drawn from Japans colorful youth and fashion culture centered in Harajuku, a neighborhood in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, Japan. Harajuku is world famous for its colorfully maximalistic street fashion, so building a night club which would cater to these adventurous tastes was definitely a challenge. Designed by Tiffany Dahlen and Virginia Melnyk, American architects and both recent graduates from the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, the building houses a dance club and also contains a restaurant, bar, and several lounges. 

Harajuku street fashion
Melnyk and Dahlen were asked to create a whole "new approach to the night club experience." When asked about the project Melnyk described the inspriation thusly. "It is not by chance that the project looks sweet like Candyland — much of our inspiration came from the sensations of taste and our perception of a visualization of these sensations. It is our hope that this project will push boundaries and leave viewers with a wider imagination of what architecture and design can be.”

The buildings use of color and texture is groundbreaking. Called wacky by many, this nightclub is braver and more visually satisfying that most. Aided by ever advancing computer aided modeling and rendering techniques, the pair generated undulating petal-like surfaces that go beyond just a visual experience and seem to elicit the smells and taste as well. Each flavor of texture fades at its edges like an evaporating scent just before the next colorful texture kicks in and the senses are once again invigorated.

More than just maximalism  this building  embodies another important aspect of Harajuku fashion. With little distinction drawn between what clothes are supposed to be worn by men and which by women this fashion style goes a long way toward the elimination of cultural gender boundaries, similar in effect to the newly cross gender audiences of shows like Adventure Time and the recent anime-like reboot of My Little Pony.  This building does away with distinctions of gender, the distraction of being feminine or masculine, cute or serious, and instead is just visually interesting.  It kills that old fashioned idea that anything made by women or associated with women is niche, by women for women, while products, shows, buildings made by men are universal, for everyone. The building is a feat of form and function, audience and creators all wrapped up in one stunning package. 

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

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Paseo Marítimo de la Playa Poniente, Spain

City shorelines tend to be a problem when it comes to the design and maintenance of public spaces. With all that water and sand to contend with theses areas are often left as concrete slabs cut through by periodic access stairs. Take this beach, the one and a half kilometer long promenade originally ran side by side with a four lane thoroughfare and a series of ground-level parking lots. An attempt to improve the strip in the 1970's led to the years of degrading paving and a concrete sea wall which obstructed both views of the beach and physical access. The infrastructure made the beach hard to use, yet another example of public space being ruined by too little consideration.  When the city of Benidorm, in the south of Spain, held a design competition to spruce up the promenade after committing ten million Euros to the project, this eye-catching beauty was the result. 

The city wanted a potent solution to reinvigorate the space, improve the public use of the beach and create a visual relationship between the beach and the juxtaposed office high rises.   Amazingly, thats just what they got. The new promenade uses a rainbow of colors and curves reminiscent of the surf itself to bind the two spaces together. Colors add visual prominence to the walk way when seen from the neighboring sidewalks and store fronts inviting pedestrians  to cross the street and enjoy the view. The diagrams and models shown above illustrate how the serpentine from reflects and thus eases the transition between the urban space and the natural one. 

If you want to know more or see other public spaces that have been similarly improved through  the use of color and architectural intervention visit Public Space, the European Prize for innovation in public space architecture. 

Generalitat Valenciana - Ayuntament de Benidorm
Office of Architecture in Barcelona
Luca Cerullo - Dirección de Obra Juan Calvo - Estructura

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

Monday, May 6, 2013


When did the play, color and creativity of kindergarden get bleached from the educational environment?   In primary schools for young children teachers typically decorate their rooms with student art and visuals that relate to the curriculum.    The thought is  lively images  are fun and help children create positive associations with learning. But what about high schools? Some  high school have let the color drain away and schools have become an institutitional shadow of their former selves. Its definitely a problem, and Publicolor is here to help.

The before
Publicolor is a not-for-profit  organization using color and design based programs to help under-performing schools reinvigorate their campuses.   The kids experiencing these enhanced environments increase college and job preparedness. They  believe, and they have the numbers to back this up, that the colorful revitalizations done in collaboration with the students gives students a feeling of ownership of the school. Students involved in these projects are twice as likely as their fellow students to successfully graduate from high school: "94% of Publicolor’s students, 97% of whom are minorities, graduated on time last year. This compared to 58% at their schools."

and after of  Publicolor school painting project
When people like and care about their spaces it not only cuts down on more minor negligences of graffiti and litter, but also gives the students and community members a feeling of civic pride. In this way Publicolor aims to help interrupt the cycle of poverty that plages many of these schools students, their families  and the neighborhoods they live in. 

Publicolor  reminds us of something we all know inherently, the environments we are surrounded by, whether by our own design or by circumstance, change how we think and feel about ourselves, others, and our work.   Environments  can influence how creative, how engaged or rewarded we feel. Color alone cannot give concentration, passion or excitement to the students in these schools, no more than it  can overhaul a poorly operating office or hospital. Color instead is a visual marker of the social reform, acting as a reminder of the communities goals, needs and abilities to come together to create something meaningful. Color encourages and supports us, but ultimately acts as a banner of commitment, past and present, to our places and the people we share them with. 

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