Colour Design principles Planning strategies Visual communication
Colour Design principles Planning strategies Visual communication
Author Axel Buether, Prof. Dr.-Ing. University of Wuppertal, teaching Didactics of Visual Communication; Chairman of the Deutsches Farbenzentrum e.V.
Anke Augsburg, Dipl.-Des. Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Danzl, Prof. Dr. phil. Dott. Andreas Kalweit, Prof. Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Dipl.-Des. AnneMarie Neser, Dr.-Ing. M.A. Timo Rieke, Verw.-Prof., Dipl.-Des. Lino Sibillano, art historian M.A. Axel Venn, Prof. Dipl.-Des. Marcella Wenger-Di Gabriele, Dipl.-Farbgestalterin HF Stefanie Wettstein, Dr. phil., art historian M.A.
Publisher Editorial services and editorial assistants: Steffi Lenzen (Project Manager); Kirsten Rachowiak; Samay Claro, Sophie Karst, Florian Köhler, Nicola Kollmann, Eva Schönbrunner Drawings: Ralph Donhauser, Emese M. Köszegi, Nicola Kollmann, Simon Kramer Translation into English: Christina McKenna, Lindsay Munroe, Keiki Communication, Berlin Copy Editor: Rebecca Hudson, Keiki Communication, Berlin Proofreading: Philip Shelley, Zurich © 2014 Institut für internationale Architektur-Dokumentation GmbH & Co. KG, Munich An Edition DETAIL book 978-3-95553-208-6 (Print) 978-3-95553-209-3 (E-Book) 978-3-95553-210-9 (Bundle) Printed on acid-free paper made from cellulose bleached without the use of chlorine. This work is protected by copyright. All rights are reserved, specifically the right of translation, reprinting, citation, re-use of illustrations and tables, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilm or in other ways, and storage of the material, in whole or in part, in databases. For any kind of use, permission of the copyright owner must be obtained. Typesetting & production: Simone Soesters Printed by: Kessler Druck + Medien, Bobingen 1st edition, 2014 This book is also available in a German language edition (ISBN 978-3-920034-96-6). Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Bibliothek. Die Deutsche Bibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliographie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the internet at http://dnb.ddb.de. Institut für internationale Architektur-Dokumentation GmbH & Co. KG Hackerbrücke 6, 80335 Munich Tel: +49 89 381620-0 Fax: +49 89 381620-77 www.detail.de
∂ Practice Colour
Materiality and technology
Design fundamentals 33 Colour systems – illustrating, comparing, communicating 38 Planning with colour in space 43 Colour concepts 50 Designing spatial atmospheres – the fundamentals of designing with light 61
Colour in the city – colour in the countryside
Colour in the past, present and future 71 Colour in 20th century architecture Identification. Understanding. Maintenance. 80 Colour in 1970s architecture in Berlin and Zurich – the history of “colour culture” and the use of colour, now and in the future 88 From classic Modernism to contemporary colour design 96 98 100 102 104 106 108 110 112
Examples of projects Brandhorst Museum in Munich (D) University building in Paris (F) Jewish community centre in Mainz (D) Secondary school in Eching (D) Flower market in Barcelona (E) Museum and cultural centre in Aomori (J) Public housing in Paris (F) Kindergarten in Monthey (CH) New town centre in Barking (GB)
Appendix 114 Authors 114 Literature 116 Manufacturers and companies 118 Picture credits 119 Index
The function of colour – an introduc tion to colour theory and a definition of terms Axel Buether
Colour is both a phenomenon and a medium of visual perception and communication. Colour illuminates and light colours As a phenomenon , colour shapes how people experience the environment visually, while as a medium, it conveys meaning, emotional moods and functional information. As luminous colour it appears atmospheric and diffuse to the viewer, while as non-luminous colour, shape and form materialise from it. The antithesis of coloured light is darkness, which shows its influence on the aesthetics and function of the phenomenal world in the spatial play of shadows. The complex sensations of colour result from the interaction of light with the entire organism. Colour and light form two sides of the same phenomenon, since colour illuminates and light colours. Colours shape the appearance of the natural environment, which varies in terms of climate and topography. They make it possible for diverse forms of life to orient themselves and to communicate in ways specific to their species. Colour creates identity. These biological functions do not only shape the natural environment – they also determine the aesthetics of the cultural space that illustrates the forms of visual communication between people. Colour’s potential for expression and communication evolves with the cultural development of individuals and societies. It finds expression in all manifestations of life, in words, pictures, objects, spaces and performances. Colour is the most important design tool for configuring the environment aesthetically, as the abstract lineal structures of the planning phase take on a physical form in the atmospheric and material manifestations of built space. The entire material culture is designed according to the biological
principles of visual perception. People must be able to identify the purpose of an artefact by looking at it in order to orient themselves, use it or protect themselves against it. Orientation is an essential function of colour, since the spatial resolution of all material structures increases exponentially with every nuance of brightness and perceptible hue. This principle can be seen in the pixel composition of a digital image. Whole image planes disappear or appear, shift, or form new relationships when colour and brightness are manipulated. The separation of the colour spectrum into chromatic and achromatic colours derives from the mode of operation of the visual system, which processes the colourfulness and brightness of luminous and non-luminous colours separately. By practising colour perception, the achromatic components of a hue can be identified and assigned to a grey tone in the scale between black and white. Similarly, values can be assigned to the chromatic components of pure colours or colour mixtures whose classification reflects the processing of visual signals in the brain, as explained elsewhere (see p. 12ff.). Pure black, white and grey hues only occur rarely in nature, since organic and inorganic materials always include coloured particles as a result of their development process. The aesthetics of achromatic colours are based on the abstraction processes of artistic cultural techniques in which information is generated by lines and gradual nuances between light and dark. Black ink and white paper now dominate not only text and image production, but also the appearance of the entire cultural space via the industrial dyeing of raw materials. The most frequently
used pure achromatic pigments are crystalline titanium white and printer’s carbon black. The latter is reduced as a by-product of combustion processes to almost pure carbon. These two bio logically insignificant achromatic colours account for about two-thirds of worldwide pigment production . The effects of this on the appearance of the Earth can now be observed from space. The fundamental difference between natural and cultural space can therefore be recognised as regards both form and colour. The reduction of the spectrum to achromatic colours means that the perception of the environment shifts. Some levels of information, such as light and shadow, become more prominent, while others disappear completely. The non-use of chromatic colours increases the per ception of the contours and volume of buildings and objects in proportion to the decrease in the importance of the surface. The emphasis on the outlines puts lengths, widths, depths, proportions and additions at the forefront of perception. Information on the time of day, mood, atmosphere, materiality and tactility becomes less important as a result of the chromatic colour abstraction process and recedes into the background. Colour, which thereby loses its meaning is used merely as a filler for linear structures, easily becoming decoration. The amount of colourfulness shifts the focus of the object and spatial perception. Colour should therefore always be used purposively in architecture and design. Too many colours (or more precisely, too much colour-coded information) can be just as disorientating as too few colours. Colour design is visual communication. In nature, colour is a result of evolution: as a result, all the 7
Materiality and technology
scope of this paper to provide an overview of all types of paints and varnishes, but some of them will be presented below in order to give an insight into how varied they are. Distemper Distempers are among the oldest types of paint. They are environmentally friendly and have a positive effect on the indoor climate, especially when combined with adobe walls. Distempers react sensitively to the effects of dampness and are therefore not suitable for outdoor use. However, they can be used in bathrooms or kitchens because they absorb water vapour, which they then release again after some time. Distempers can easily be painted over several times, are odourless, have a low impact on the environment and are inexpensive. Furthermore, they can be used easily and without any restrictions on all mineral surfaces, paper, wallpaper and wood in interiors and can be mixed to create many different colours. Because new layers are easy to remove, distempers are especially useful for stucco. Lime washes Lime washes are a type of mineral paint that is not very good at binding pigments. As a result, only pastel shades can be mixed. Lime washes are difficult to apply and generally require several coats, making them relatively expensive to use. They are suitable for low stress applications on plaster, concrete and fibre cement primarily for interior use. Their alkaline structure means that they are fungicidal. Lime paints are highly recommendable in terms of their low impact on the environment. They are not harmful to health and display an extraordinary luminosity. Silicate paints Silicate paints consist of binding agents, colour pigments, fillers and water, and 24
are also a type of mineral paint. They do not create a colour coating, but instead only react with mineral substrates. This means that they can only be used on such surfaces. As they are durable and weather-resistant, they are mostly used on facades. Silicate paints are difficult to use and are relatively expensive. Acrylic paints Acrylic paints come in both solventbased and water-based varieties. The latter are considerably more environmentally friendly and low-odour than their solvent-based counterparts. They are very often used in the manual trades and in industry because they are easy to apply and are suitable for wooden, plastic and metal surfaces. They are available in specialist shops as finished products or as customisable mixes in a very wide range of shades. Synthetic resin emulsion paints Synthetic resin emulsion paints offer a wide range of design options, are environmentally friendly, and are often used to paint walls. As a result, they are among the most commonly used paints and varnishes. Water-bound resins are generally used as a bonding agent. In recent years, DIY shops in particular have offered a customer-oriented service where synthetic resin emulsion paints can be mixed individually to provide an extensive choice of graduated nuances. Glazes Glazes are very thin and can penetrate porous surface structures particularly well, thus making them ideal for waterproofing and surface protection. Glazed wooden surfaces retain their natural character due to their porosity. Because of their low pigmentation, glazes form a transparent or semi-transparent layer and allow the substrate to shine through
with greater or lesser intensity. Water- soluble glazes are mainly used for interior applications. Silicone resin paints and varnishes Silicone resin paints and varnishes (Fig. 6) are coatings based on a combination of two bonding agents – polymer dispersion and silicone resin emulsion. Building coatings based on silicone resin are known for their high water vapour permeability combined with low water absorption. They are ideally suited for mineral substrates, especially for exterior facades that are exposed to severe weather conditions. Depending on their composition, these paints can be moisture-permeable when they have a high silicate concentration and/or be extremely resistant but have lower vapour permeability when they have a high concentration of synthetic resin. Unlike silicone resin paints, silicone resin varnishes are mainly bonded using silicone resins and are suitable for use as coatings on stoves and domestic ovens because of their heat-resistant and weather-resistant properties. Polyurethane resins These high-grade catalysed lacquers, which are also known as DD lacquers, are available both as two-component lacquers containing solvent and as single-component water-soluble lacquers. They are particularly suited for use on metal, concrete or wood surfaces that are subject to a lot of wear, such as floors or the hull of a boat. Due to their low vapour permeability they can only be used in a very limited way on mineral substrates. Powder coatings Powder coatings are bonded with thermoplastics or duroplastics. There are very different techniques for applying
Materiality and technology
the coloured powder and for bonding it permanently to the substrate by fusing it or letting it harden. In a previous step, the powder is processed specially with a view to the optical and mechanical requirements (Fig. 7). The choice of pigments depends on the requirements of the processing method, but also on how expensive and time- consuming it is to produce the powder. This means that its use might be limited for financial reasons. Powder coatings are very durable and are used in furniture, bicycle frames, household appliances and facade cladding. Applying varnishes and paints
There are many different methods for applying the wide range of varnishes and paints. Rollers and brushes Varnishes and paints can be applied to a surface using a paintbrush or a roller. This is usually done manually. Special additives and solvents have a significant impact on the application properties and make it possible to apply the paint evenly, without dripping while working overhead, or with a lower risk of sagging or running. Plastering Thick, pasty paint or plaster can be applied using a trowel or a spray. Particularly absorbent substrates should be moistened beforehand so that the plaster adheres well and does not set too quickly. Spray painting In addition to the paintbrush and roller methods mentioned above, spraying is one of the most common coating methods for flat and even surfaces, and
a very effective one. When working with small, complex components with a large number of openings, only a small percentage of the paint remains on the surface during conventional spraying, and paint loss (overspray) can be up to 90 per cent. When working with electrically conductive surfaces, this effect can be reduced by charging the component and the paint electrostatically, thus reducing paint loss to as little as 15 per cent. Electrostatic spray painting The principle of electrostatic painting is not only suited to spray painting, e.g. for bicycle frames, wheel rims and casings, but also for dip coating (Fig. 8). This method is also used on car bodies and ensures that the coating adheres well in areas that are difficult to reach. Baked and powder coatings Once they have been applied, special varnishes can also be baked on using a thermal treatment to make them more resilient. Particularly hard-wearing and resistant coatings can be achieved using the powder-coating method (Fig. 9). In this method, powder coatings containing plastic duroplastic or thermoplastic bonding agents are applied so that the coating hardens due to a chemical reaction or when it cools after being fused. Fluidised bed coating Using a similar principle, fluidised bed coating involves heating components above the melting point of the thermoplastic powder coating and placing them in a sealed chamber with a cloud of plastic powder. The powder fuses with the surface of the component, thus forming a solid plastic coating. Wire baskets in dishwashers or wire fences are among the products coated in this way.
Enamelling The enamelling process makes it possible to produce extremely hard, scratchproof and weather-resistant coatings. Powdered glass is mixed with water and applied to a surface in multiple layers. It is then dried and fired at temperatures above 800 °C to form a vitreous enamel coating. Due to the high temperatures involved in the process, usually only metals with a higher melting point, such as those used in baths, pots and baking trays, are subjected to this process. Monochrome and uniform coatings can be applied using the methods described above. In order to produce decorative and artistic surfaces, methods such as screen printing, hydrographics or pad printing can be used. Screen printing A wide spatula (squeegee) is used in screen printing to push thick, pasty ink through a fine mesh onto the surface to be printed. Blank areas of the fabric are coated with an impermeable substance, thus making it possible to print very detailed patterns, fonts and gradients. The print resolution is determined by the mesh size of the fabric and is still lower than in offset printing. In general, screen printing can be used on all solid materials, such as drinks cans, advertising signs, traffic signs, product labels, clothing and glass facades.
7 8 9
ilicone resin paints are particularly well suited S to facades in both old and new buildings. Because of their resistance to weathering, as well as to fungal and algae growth and their flaking impact, these paints protect the valuable building fabric. Colour-coated steel profiles, hotel at BerlinBrandenburg Airport (D) 2012, PETERSEN ARCHITEKTEN. Priming car bodies using electrostatic dip coating. Powder-coated MDF panels.
Colour systems – illustrating, comparing, communicating
The reason why colour systems are currently viewed as indispensable in a large number of technical, creative, media and marketing professions can be attributed to the increasingly pronounced links between tasks and disciplines, to internationalisation, to the complexity of product-based requirements and to growing quality requirements. A vehicle interior, for example, must feature the same colour tone across five or six material types, while the interior design of a hospital must follow an colour aesthetic in keeping with recovery and care. Both challenges call for clearly established and easily communicable definitions.
(384 – 322 BC), who dealt with colour and the contrast of light in his work Meteo rology. He wrote of his observations of natural colours during the day, from white midday shades to late-afternoon tones, from the red of the evening sky to the purple-violet and the black of the night sky . He recognised, for example, that bright embroideries had a different radiance in strong sunlight than they did in the pallid light of an oil lamp. Colour is not always constant – rather, it is dependent on light. Red has a different appearance when viewed against a white background compared to when it is perceived against a green background. The explanation of colours provided by Plato (ca. 427 – 347 BC) was based on the idea that sight was the result of a beam of light originating in the eye . For Plato, the sheen of a surface was of equal value to colour itself. Aristotle and Plato were conscious of the fact that harmonies and mysterious dissonances lay hidden behind colours. However, they could not pursue, by today’s standards, a concrete scientific understanding of the topic. Aristotle believed colour to be an intrinsic property of materials and bodies
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Categorisation and localisation The book Farb-Systeme 1611– 2007 [“Colour Systems, 1611– 2007”], edited by Werner Spillmann, presents 68 different colour categorisation concepts in the form of colour systems and groupings . The desire to develop the most systematic means of colour categorisation possible – and thus a system for localising the wide range of colours – can be viewed as the most significant motivating factor in the historical progression toward a comprehensive approach to visualisation.
RAL DESIGN System NAVIGATION (CIELab)
rather than of sensory perception. The beginnings of an exact, systematic and, by contemporary standards, scientific search for an understanding of luminous colour can be best traced back to Sir Isaac Newton (1642 –1726), who recognised that light was not itself coloured but held a “certain Power and Disposition to stir up a Sensation of this or that Colour” . On the basis of his experiments, Newton proved that white light could be dispersed to form a colour spectrum and could then be refracted back together – additive colour mixing, in contrast to subtractive colour mixing.
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Concept and origins The idea of explaining colours by means of a philosophical discourse and placing them within a canon of rules and regularities dates back to classical antiquity. The following explanations will demonstrate that the science and philosophy of colour are located, chronologically, at the beginning of our understanding of the subject, as a stable definition of what we observe is neither quantifiable nor comparable. One can go as far back as Aristotle
60° colour circle: the colour saturation is highest 3 on the outer axis (of the colour circle). It forms the “equator line” of the colour structure. The RAL 040 colour chart: in uniform steps, the colour charts show, from the colour circle that is 360° in total, the lightness, the saturation and the grey axis.
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Using colour conceptually in rooms and spaces Marcella Wenger-Di Gabriele
Work on a colour concept for a room or space is mostly preceded by a diverse range of client expectations. In view of the countless number of ready-made ways of thinking that are available, as well as the dictates of commerce and trends, when making decisions about colour, we often fall back on ideas that have established themselves as generally accepted ideals. Individuality is packaged in cryptically modern-sounding catchwords such as “new classic”, “metropolitan”, “urban” and so on, before being voluntarily sacrificed to the mainstream. A common factor of all assignments is that they are generally commissioned with good intentions. We want to please ourselves or others. We are looking for something new or at least something different, in the hope of making an impact; we want to represent, attract and entice. We even talk about healing, from whatever condition, as the search for very different ways of boosting people’s wellbeing has been one of the major topics of the past 50 to 60 years when dealing with colour. As such, the findings from empirical experiments on the psychological impact of colours have been spread to great effect, as have words of wisdom from faraway cultures. Both are brought
to a broad public in lucrative crash courses, and reduced to the level of popular science. The psychological and physiological effects of certain shades and paints have now been awarded the unprotected “scientifically tested” seal of approval in what could be described as the culmination of the many promises about the healing powers of colours. However, wherever the effects of shades are communicated in a targeted manner, they are accompanied by unsettling information on side effects. As a result, it has become an established strategy when reaching decisions about colour in the design process to refer to colour systems that show the alleged spectrum of possibilities in a clearly understandable order and include codes as a guarantee of success. At the same time, these coded systems are first and foremost an aid to communicating colours and are not a design tool per se. Both manufacturers and designers also refer to colour collections by famous role models in order to legitimise concepts or product lines. In addition to this, eccentric artistic colour concepts generate prestige or at least interest by being different for the sake of being different. These concepts are then used as templates by some individuals who lack expertise in the field. Colour aesthetics When working conceptually with colour, individual tones play a secondary role because, as in music, the quality and appropriateness of a tone can only be recognised and experienced once it is integrated into a thematic composition. As such, a yellow wall on its own is simply a yellow wall until it is embedded as part of an overall space-forming entity in a way that is comprehensible and makes sense. On the one hand, the impact of this yellow surface may be experienced as revolting or alienating depending on a
person’s individual preferences; on the other hand, it may touch someone within the overall context in such a way that personal preferences become secondary or are even forgotten. This can be demonstrated in laboratory experiments by presenting several polychrome surfaces in a room. When very different colours are shown side by side, this can have a wide range of spatial or dynamic effects. Depending on the composition, vibrations are caused between disharmonious proximities; rhythms arise from strong light/dark contrasts; and wavelike oscillations occur in the case of flowing gradations. Thus, figuratively speaking, this results in “carpets of sound” that touch us with their unlimited possible effects. Colour Intoxication – a polychrome, room-encompassing installation All known colour systems and arrangements, from Wilhelm Ostwald (1853 –1932) to today’s commonly used colour systems, structure the world of colours to render it a more or less closed entirety which, in its consistent logic, seems to claim to cover the entire colour cosmos. The systems that result from this are often seen in practice as absolute truths, as they can be coded and are predictable and widely accessible. However, these supposedly all-encompassing systems sacrifice the rich colour spectrum of the colour-colour mixes and complementary mixes and prevent the tidy arrangement of diverse or even chance coexistence. The aim of the Colour Intoxication project (Fig. 1) was to demolish colour systems’ restrictive order, which also constitutes an aesthetic limitation. The goal was to explore the aesthetic facets expressed when the limited spectrum of colour systems was expanded to include previously
Using colour conceptually in rooms and spaces
“ Colour Intoxication”. The spatial impact is fascinating. The result is a colour space that seems to be orderly although it is chaotic. “Colour Intoxication”. Hard rhythms created by light and dark contrasts; wavelike movements in rows featuring similar amount of colour or grey; colours that jump out or recede depending on the shade; brightness or proximity; highly contrasting and softer sounds; horizontal and vertical connections; flickering when disharmonious colours are beside each other. If the viewer focuses on a specific colour theme, for example, pink, then the pink colours work together as a group and become protagonists in a concert. Over time, they seem to multiply. 2
forgotten colour-colour and complementary mixes and when the system was not seen as a composition with a specific target, but rather as an encounter between different noises. Colour Intoxication was conceived as a creative contribution to the artistic and scientific discourse on colour systems, colour schemes and colour compositions. The only method applied throughout was empiricism in the form of a walk-in colour space that followed the chaos principle. The idea was that colour neighbourhoods and colour relationships would emerge that do not follow either an arrangement system or aesthetic conventions. This aim was based on the conviction that the unarranged emphasises the incompleteness of such systems and that the essence of each colour manifests itself anew again and again within the infinite possibilities of its relationship to other colours. As part of an exercise at the Haus der Farbe (House of Colour), at the Höhere Fachschule für Farbgestaltung (School of Applied Colour Design) in Zurich, students used three individually chosen colours to create their own colour col lection. They also produced a card for each shade for the Colour Intoxication installation. On average, 17 students each mixed more than 300 colours, thus producing a collection of over 5,500 unique colour cards, which were carefully arranged in boxes. The interior architecture of the Haus der Farbe is ideally suited to the installation. In the heart of the school, which is located in a converted industrial plant, a hall under a skylight adjoins a studio screened by glass. The dimensions of the eastern studio wall were projected onto the opposite wall in the hall.
This meant that the static framework, with the reflecting projection surface between it, provided a promising starting point. The colour cards were mixed in hours of work until any kind of order and sequence – so-called colour nests – were eliminated. The colour cards were then nailed to the walls from top to bottom and also laid out on floors and tables. The planned disorder had an impressive effect. Surprisingly unusual and different worlds of colour turned the surfaces into dynamic areas. Standing in front of these for a while triggered fascinating phenomena, such as hard rhythms – vertical connections replacing soft horizontal waves – and highly contrasting and soft sounds. Not one colour was in the wrong place; there was not a colour too many, and each colour was necessary. The question of whether or not one liked the installation was subordinate to this aesthetic expressiveness. Without a word, it was apparent that individual colours are neither beautiful nor ugly in themselves, but are simply innocent and must always be evaluated objectively and on the basis of context. The empirically developed open colour space, which was based on chaos rather than order, showed relationships rather than order. Countless unique noises, sounds and rhythms made up a dynamic “carpet of colour” (Fig. 2). Cheerful colours – a serious business What appears to be an entertaining, endlessly variable keyboard of colours can render people helpless and restless. When so many shades are presented at the same time, as in the Colour Intoxication installation, countless simultaneous phenomena involved in the perception of colour interact, with an intoxicating effect on the senses. The call for sets of rules and formulas thus becomes understandable as a logical reflex response to the profusion of colour.
In systematic colour schemes, the world of colour seems harmonious, clear and logically arranged like the sequence of notes on a well-tuned piano. In the same way that untrained players can bang out a simple tune or play scales on the piano, when choosing shades non-experts seek orientation within a colour scheme according to colour gradients or the latest fashion and instinctively look for something that is subjectively pleasing. Only seldom do those who are interested in music but untrained dare to sing or play music in front of an audience. When it comes to colours, however, non-experts from all sections of the population and all professions rarely feel daunted when faced with the many available shades and publicly display the most bizarre creations. Unlike acoustic disharmonies, these creations do not fade away. Like permanent beats of a drum or screeching synthetic noises, objects designed in this way force themselves out of their context, turn up the volume level without asking and, in the worst case, become role models because they make a statement. The architectural and landscape context, however, can be compared to a permanent sensual composition, to which we must add carefully conceived decisions on colours and materials in an appropriate manner. Considered in this way, it becomes clear that favourite colours or subjective liking can naturally play a role, but ultimately should not set the tone on their own. The meaning of one’s individual favourite colour(s) must be critically reconsidered when working conceptually with colour in the design process. As we know, it is the rarity of things – or in colour compositions the quantity of a colour – that increases their attractiveness. If a favourite colour is over-hastily and conspicuously made the main theme of a design as a means of fulfilling a certain purpose, then its attrac39
Using colour conceptually in rooms and spaces
enggen elderly care home, Langnau in EmmenL tal (CH) 2006, Jörg + Sturm Architects. In designing the corridor the designers used using a witty communications strategy to persuade the client to accept a paradoxical design that emphasised the length of the space. 6
description of a rudimentary colour concept works better than any two-dimensional visual presentation. The aim is that the client will identify with the explained and visualised design intention, that is, to reach a consensus that both sides can refer back to at a later stage when working out the design details. Definitive decisions on colour must be taken within the actual context of the situation, and must consider the light and shade conditions on site. This takes into account the absorptions and reflections that are to be expected. It is crucial to examine both paints defined by colour codes and hand-mixed samples on site – on the one hand with respect to their colour and, on the other hand, above all with respect to the look and feel of the surfaces, which are significantly affected by tool marks. The careful and professional implementation of a concept idea is not only a design challenge, but also largely a communications challenge requiring diplomatic skill. The interlocutors are just as different as the respective languages they speak: the language of the architect, the tradesperson, the client and many more. Occasionally, such discussions give rise to linguistic acrobatics and often end in laughter. Experience has shown, however, that this is a symptom of coming closer to the goal, as it covers up in a charming manner a kind of capitulation and reveals the desire for unexpected solutions. An example of this situation can be seen in a 30-metre-long corridor in the basement of a car home (Fig. 6). The corridor is used by the residents to access the common rooms in a neighbouring home for the elderly. The colour designer’s job was to tell the painter what shade of white to use so that he could paint the walls. The pleasure in the design vision, which emphasised the impressive length 42
of the corridor, resulted in a unique solution that was received positively by all those involved, rather than creating a garage atmosphere. The diagnosis “long” would generally have suggested a treatment that lent rhythm to the space in order to shorten it. However, the designer decided on a paradoxical intervention, namely to lengthen the space. This allowed the senior citizens to arrive at their destination quicker than they had expected. The design generates an acceleration effect. The essence of an intervention of this kind is ultimately a fortunate outcome that is impressive due to its consistency. Going beyond aesthetic conventions, the design meets the demands of a particular situation and touches people. Care requires time There are various ways and means for colour designers to achieve good designs in architecture in cooperation with clients and architects. The following list describes several planning steps that should be mentioned in the proposal so that the careful procedure and the benefits for the client can be rendered transparent. The aim of the first step is to formulate a core statement on the idea behind the colour design. The basis for this is a thorough analysis of the situation and object, from which a concept idea is then developed. A text written for the client describes the conclusions of the analysis, the idea and the design intention derived from it. The second step involves creating a rough concept with possible alternatives. This includes colour samples and proposals on materials, and presents rudimentarily envisaged implementation alternatives. The aim of the first presentations and meetings with planners and the client is to reach consensus. If the decision-
making body is a committee, the agreement recorded in the minutes acts as a kind of anchor that can be referred back to if subjective counterarguments threaten to weaken the core of the design intention at a later stage of the project. The third step involves a precise concept, including a detailed colour and materials plan. Samples, which should be as large as possible and used on site, are helpful for defining both colours and materials, mainly in cooperation with tradespeople and product manufacturers and in close coordination with the architect. Finally, implementation support ensures the quality of the design. In the best-case scenario, this leads to an overall consistent quality. What is ultimately important is to uphold a high-quality building culture. This necessitates the creation of aesthetic and substantive value. However, this can only be achieved in the built environment if, rather than hastily seeking beauty, we strive carefully and in an interdisciplinary manner for good quality in our work. Decisionmakers should therefore not trust blindly, and when we talk of a building culture, then time cannot mean money. The real masters of the trades should not only be desired, but also in demand. In this sense, appropriate and proper colour and materials designs are needed more than ever as integrative and value-generating components in constructing new buildings and in carrying out construction work on existing buildings.
Colour concepts Timo Rieke
These days, the use of colour presents no particular challenge from a technical point of view. Whereas in centuries past, the choice of colours was automatically limited by natural pigments and binding agents, there now seems to be no limit to the possibilities for using colour and material. One can select from colour charts containing 2,000 different shades, and ambitious colour classification sys tems encompass almost the entire spec trum of perceptible shades. While in the past, colour was expensive and saturated colours particularly rare, it is now a rela tively cheap design medium and gener ally easy to process. Colour – which once belonged to nature and to things – has lost its link to material and surfaces over the years and can now be deployed almost universally. The freedom of colour When cheap synthetic paints were invented in the second half of the 19th century, bringing with them the possibility of decorating almost any material in any colour, broad sections of the population first experienced the freedom to decide what colour to use for which particular purpose. Any kind of choice inevitably gives rise to questions of responsibility and justification. Anyone working in the area of design today has the choice of either avoiding colour, choosing a colour based on personal feelings or consciously applying colour by taking context and strategy into account. The rules of colour If colour is universally deployable from a technical point of view, the nature of human perception still determines its layers of meaning. From the rules of perception we can thus filter out basic rules for using colour. Colour concepts therefore determine the general com prehensibility of a design in relation to
human perception in the personal and societal domain. Unfortunately, there is no widely available or recognised source for classifying the term “colour concept”. Colour concepts seem to have eluded systematic classi fication to date and are only familiar to a circle of experts. However, there is a pressing need for a general definition of basic rules. On the one hand, the enor mous impact of colour on the quality of a design is well known, on the other, there are no justification strategies for commu nicating high-quality colour design. So how can we define colour concepts? Colour as communication In the design process, colour concepts are largely shown in the form of mood boards, colour and material collages, fabric samples and verbal interpreta tions, as well as by models and threedimensional representations. The basis is formed by intuitive experiments and empirical investigations and their exami nation according to the rules of percep tion, relevance and emotional and cultural comprehensibility with regard to milieus and target audiences. In order to fulfil a particular goal, every space and object requires colour and materiality specifications in the context of its technical function, sensual manifesta tion and cultural significance. Colour concepts analyse and record these manifold contexts, formulate them strategically, and provide both a func tional and a sensual and cultural location for a design. A colour concept in this sense is an interdisciplinary communi cation concept that allows an object to communicate non-verbally in a way that can be understood. The creation of intelligibility therefore requires broad knowledge of society on the part of the
designer to ensure that the communica tion also fulfils its function, namely open ing up a particular space in which all participants of a designated context understand each other. It is the colour designer’s task to fill this space with colour, surface, form and material – both literally and figuratively. The challenge of a colour concept is to capture all of the signal levels of colour affecting sensory perception in a controlled fashion and to apply them in an impact-oriented way within a defined framework. The meaning of a colour is only determined here through its combination with other colours and particular materials, as well as by its local and textual context. In this context, the coherence of a colour message with respect to collective influences, habits of seeing and characteristics of human perception forms the starting point for colour design. Within a design project, a colour concept thus defines people’s relationship to the object being designed. In connection with the right form, the right space, the right lighting, the right materials and an appro priate structural order, colour can create highly diverse harmonies, form a type of resonance chamber for emotions, and give rise to fields of tension. Colour con cepts differentiate between the natural and the artificial, harmony and difference, stasis and vibration, and past and future. This differentiation particularly applies when it is consciously implemented and becomes an integral part of a design project.
encil drawing, coloured with marker, oh, mummy' P pink blanket, by Anne-Lise Coste, 2003.
For example, the architectural practice Miralles Tagliabue EMBT in Barcelona transports the life of a market hall and its surroundings in a defined pixel struc ture in 67 colours to the roof of the build ing and thus charges the location anec dotally (Fig. 10). With Petra Blaisse, Rem Koolhaas defines certain zones of the central public library in Seattle with quotations of natural illustrations, thus denoting various usage systems via a targeted differentiation in colour and form (Fig. 11). Amsterdam-based architectural practice K2 designed a colour code for a residential complex in Schiedam that resulted in a synaesthetic transferral of a piece of music to the gridded facade (Fig. 12). Colour hunting Effective methods for empirically depict ing both familiar and new colour scenar ios include scouting via photographs and colour samples, as well as abstract transferral. Iconic images and ideas and historical colour scenarios also offer a good opportunity to transfer their emo tional associations to a space or a prod uct. Methods of observing the past and the present play an important role here and form the basis for cyclical trends and future developments of colour and mate rial. The better-known and closer to the ideal models are, the more “energetic” their reception. The systematic colour concept
“Meaning is not just created in the brain in our heads, but in the brains that are distributed over our whole bodies and in all the memories they contain.”  The objective of the systematic colour concept is to depict certain overall atmospheres and fill them with design. The Pavilion 21 MINI Opera Space in Munich by architectural practice Coop Himmelb(l)au unites the three aspects 48
of a colour concept in a simple way. The red area on which the building seems to stand forms an optically striking base. It denotes an intermediary or recreational zone, at once a cultural quotation of the “red carpet” as well as a sensual cue, the soft materiality a bodily signal for active, haptic deceleration and sensitisation. A systematic colour concept uses inter connected optical, sensual and cultural aspects. The better the three levels are intertwined, the better and more compre hensible the concept will appear. By applying the methods of the three colour concepts, all aspects of a design can be categorised and applied in a modular fashion. Colour designers become mean ing and mood managers when they are able to bring together optics, sensual sensation and cognitive evaluation into an overall experience that is relevant and meaningful. Experiments enrich the sys tematic approach and allow new flexible solutions around the sensual and cultural essence of colour. Experimental colour Experiments with colour allow new things to emerge and help to expand our spec trum of colour perceptions in a sensitive, sensual and cultural way. The design company Raw Color in Eindhoven experi ments with the natural colour of plant pigments, worked into light-sensitive tex tiles and additive textile transparencies (Fig. 13). In its experimental projects, Hamburg-based Studio Besau-Marguerre treats raw copper with heat and patterns, creating fascinating, colourful and mate rial-appropriate products (Fig. 14 a). Increasing numbers of large industrial firms are turning to small experimental design companies, thus creating flexible colour scenarios as the basis for their collections, which are open to the play of colour, material and emotion.
Colour masterplans A colour masterplan is a superordinate collection of colours and surfaces that offers the greatest possible flexibility, holding the entire collection together by defining the framework within which col our developments can occur. It also has the advantage that the colours can be ideally combined with each other. The objective of systematic colour concepts for products or architecture is to develop colour and material concepts that create their own identifiable space. For example, the colour and surface libraries that Hella Jongerius designs for industrial clients become colour guidelines, which repre sent an evolved overall collection as a cohesive whole while at the same time incorporating current trends (Fig. 14 b). This convergence of art and design serves to charge products emotionally. Some well-known manufacturers in the area of design now create colour univers es by commissioning various selected designers. These universes address spe cific, design-oriented target audiences. The formal design is usually particularly simple and primarily defined by the emo tional and playful use of colour and line, with progressions, blocks, rhombuses, grids and triangulations that recall con temporary generative design in architec ture using CAD applications, Grasshop per, or other forms of processing. This creates a systematic colour concept that works on all levels and whose constituent elements can be flexibly combined. In a similar way, colour masterplans for cities take into account not just the meaning of each individual building in a district, but also the cumulative urban effect. Colour doesn’t mean colourful The use of sensual and metaphorical aspects increases the value of a design by creating a connection to people, soci
NCS colour system: C = S 0530-B D = S 3060 -Y30R E = S 2060-G30Y
F = S 0520 -Y90R G = S 5540-G10Y A = S 0550-G90Y B = S 4020 -Y30R
D G A
G C A
G F A
D C F
G G G
C B E
ety and culture. However, the usual hard ware store designs featuring visual colour concepts ignore the emotional and cul tural impact of colour and thus lead to an impoverishment of the colour realm, favouring the striking and decorative. The strong saturation of standard products and building facades tends to indicate artificiality and a low level of sensitivity. Now that fundamental functional archi tecture and the largest possible expres sion have determined the appearance of cities – particularly in Germany – for years, we need a decisive step towards honesty and elegance that sensitively addresses all the senses and encourages cultural vision. The universal applicability of colour and individual production means that colour concepts can be tailored to the individual requirements of the client more than ever today and in the future. Digital models and printing, laser engraving and cutting, and 3D printing all open up possibilities that call for a strategic use of colour and form. Where once manufacturers offered targeted product collections in their design departments, the democratisa tion of design is now a factor that calls for justifiable, overarching and flexible colour concepts.
D G A
G C A
G F B
South facade b
Outlook More than ever, we now need uncom promising emotionality towards objects, as well as a comprehensive sensibility towards colour and materials. Anyone who feels colour can communicate this feeling to others. This can be explained through close scrutiny, through intelli gent, syntactic use, through connections in history and culture, and through the observation of nature, cities, people and objects. With colour we transfer experi ences and atmospheres to an object.
10 S anta Caterina Market renovation, Barcelona (E) 2005, Miralles Tagliabue a design sketches b execution 11 Colour defines and delineates levels of meaning, design by Petra Blaisse for the Central Library in Seattle (US) 2004, OMA. 12 Translation of music into colour, Klavier apart ment block, Schiedam (NL) 2007, Architecten bureau K2. 13 The Raw Color design company illustrates the holistic impression of colour atmospheres. Natural colours and transparencies show the interplay of colour and the fascination of light and colouring. Eindhoven (NL) 2010. 14 Experimental colour and material studies a Studio Besau-Marguerre b Hella Jongerius, 2013
The philosopher Slavoj Žižek proclaimed that we need clichés to find our way and to orient ourselves in society. So with this in mind we need new clichés to ensure that the future we want has a chance. Trend agencies, as well as architects and designers, are ultimately engaged with developing new clichés from the old ones and establishing them on the market. It is up to us to decide which clichés they should be. Notes:  Rieke, Timo: haptic visuals – Oberfläche und Struktur – Farbe und ihre Beziehung zur Tast wahrnehmung. Frammersbach 2008.  Kenya Hara (b.1958), Japanese graphic artist, designer and curator.
Designing spatial atmospheres – the fundamentals of designing with light
VISIB ILI TY
NC BIE L AM
Direction of light
Light is intangible. It is not a palpable material, yet it is a vital medium in building. The sun’s course makes shadows shift and immoveable structures seem to move. Lighting levels in a space are made up of the overlapping and permeation of endless, often reflected, broken and variegated rays of light. What we see is the result of its transformation on the surfaces and objects enclosing the space. A building lives not only from its design, but also always from its effect and interplay with light. How a person feels in particular place depends on various olfactory features. The following quote by Pablo Buonocore describes this very well: “[...] light in architecture can never be considered in isolation. In fact, it is the composition of light, colour, sounds, haptics, ambient temperature, humidity and odours that make up an overall architectural situation. Ultimately, it is always the individual, with their ephemeral emotional states and subjective feelings, who will judge a piece of architecture. The interaction of a balanced activation of all five senses and stimulation of our daily needs are crucial to the creation of interesting architecture”.  Using light and colour to design spaces Light and colour are essential design elements in planning spaces, and their use should preferably go hand in hand. In terms of colour’s effect on a space, it is crucial to work effectively with light because light’s inherent characteristics can enhance colour or, conversely, make it appear distorted and unpleasant. Some basic rules on designing with light: • Light is a medium that is not itself visible, but makes everything else visible. • With light comes shadow, half-darkness and contrast in designing space or 50
Harmonious distribution of brightness
VIS U A
1 Qualities of lighting: depending on the use and appearance of a space, a light’s qualities may be variously weighted, and certain areas may be preferably influenced. 2 Distinction between lighting design and lighting planning: purely aesthetic and lighting technology, including planning and practice-related terms used in lighting planning. 3 The area of the light spectrum that is visible to people. 4 Light reflected from crystals in rainbow colours.
objects and bringing the colours of surfaces to life. • Light and colour are inextricably linked. • Quality of perception and good visibility are the result of good lighting. • Visual comfort is provided by lighting that is free of glare and reflective glare. • Light on vertical surfaces shapes architectural spaces more strongly than light on horizontal surfaces does. • A light is primarily an instrument for a specific purpose and an aesthetic object only in a subordinate sense. • In illuminating and presenting a space, the qualities of the lighting should initially be considered and not just in “beautiful forms of lights” and standards. • The harmonisation of space, colour and light plays a major role in the overall design. • A basic prerequisite for developing an acceptable overall concept remains an analysis of usage and function of the site on the one hand and the overall
appearance of the architecture on the other. • What is and remains important is to develop a feeling for what the core defining element of a design or a building is, so that it can be reinforced by lighting planning. The core idea of a lighting concept should never be lost sight of, especially during an integral planning process involving many participants.
• Follow spatial structures • Elucidate dimensions • Emphasise spatial enclosure • Visual guidance • Allow for a scale of brightness • A play of light and shadow • Dynamism of light • Change of scenarios • Change of mood • Change of colour • Lighting effects • Make structures visible • Allowing materials to dominate • Making precious objects sparkle • Dramatise effects • Create visual references • Increase the effect of distance • Optically expand the space through reflection • Radiate outwards • Define spatial depths • Contrast in back light • Soft illumination of spaces
• Direction of light • Distribution of light • Light colour / colour rendering • Colour mixing • Model simulation • Visualisation • Targeting of light • Sun protection • Conservation aspects • Coordination with historic building protection • Light management systems • Light positions • Light specification • Lighting plans • Calculation of lighting • Special light application • Detail drawing • Energy budget / sustainability • Bill of quantities • Specification document / maintenance
How does a lighting designer think?
A lighting designer or lighting planner regards light as a medium that brings the selected site, with all its objects and colourful impressions, to life in a special way. Designers create lighting atmospheres and harmonise the appearance of a place with its usage, seeing the space initially purely in terms of atmosphere, free of light fittings. They mentally put together spatial atmospheres made up of surfaces emphasised with light and areas of shadow and position lights in appropri-
Designing spatial atmospheres
Cosmic radiation Gamma radiation X-ray radiation
380 nm 3
Microwaves Infrared Thermal radiation
Radar, television and radio waves
Telephone Alternating current
780 nm 1 nm = 10-9 m
ate places as a decorative element, while also concealing technical lights in architectural elements. Lighting designers also design lighting scenarios that can be implemented in accordance with current usage and over the course of the day. Some criteria of lighting design
In developing a lighting concept, the designer sets lighting accents and selects, positions and regulates lights and their illuminants to ensure optimum vision and a pleasant atmosphere for usage requirements in the best possible way. This means not only providing light in the right place at the right time in sufficient quality and intensity, but also defining a “general sense of wellbeing” by creating a pleasant lighting atmosphere. It is also necessary to harmonise criteria such as harmonious distribution of brightness, limiting direct or reflected glare, allowing for a good perception of contrast, a directed incidence of light, the colour of lighting and not least the issue of cost effectiveness. Taking all these criteria into account is a fundamental prerequisite for good lighting (Fig. 1). Lighting design and lighting planning are terms that are not clearly distinguished in everyday language, terms that can merge during the development of a lighting concept, and must often be used together. The terms can however be very clearly distinguished under headings with very different content (Fig. 2). Certain aspects can be ascribed to an aesthetic quality, others are of a purely technical nature, but neither can be dispensed with in a successful result. Only in technically detailed planning, can all the wishes and ideas of those involved in the project that were planned in the design be taken into consideration. European standards on workplace lighting Lighting standards and guidelines usually
formulate minimum quality requirements for light for specific lighting situations. State of the art technology will be crucial in determining which minimum quality standards must be maintained. DIN EN 12 464 and the workplace guidelines must generally always be applied. Wellfounded exceptions are, however, permitted (structures listed for historic protection and areas in museums may, for example, prevent standards from being consistently applied). Understanding and using light as a material The topic of lighting is very complex because light is not just intangible, it’s often also hard to understand. The first step in skilfully working with lighting should therefore be to carefully examine the spatial context while posing the following questions: • Why is this architectural space perceived in the way that people currently perceive it? • Are its colours shown to their advantage? • Can things in the space be easily seen, or do they appear distorted? • Is the spatial atmosphere generally appealing? It may be difficult to evaluate all technical lighting factors within a very short time, but doing so trains the designer’s eye and feel for lighting atmospheres, regardless of whether the space is an office, a museum or private residential space. The interaction of light and surface colours Light and colour are inextricably linked. Coloured surfaces and material surfaces will only be shown to advantage in the “right light”. A designer who is aware of the interplay of light and surface colours can more deliberately and impressively use their appearance in the design. It is,
however, often necessary to test the desired effect in advance on a model or on a scale of 1:1, using a mock-up. This enables a designer to react to an unexpected outcome diverging from the planned design, as when a fine, translucent curtain looks heavy and dull, a large blue wall at the end of a room looks black, or a wooden cupboard door with a fine finish looks grey, for example. Visual perception
When planning a visual environment, the purely physical properties of light and the interplay between the light source, the object and the object as perceived in the current situation in terms of the psychology of perception must all be taken into account. “Light” as a physical phenomenon Usually when we talk about “light” we mean visible light. From a physical aspect, it is regarded in most contexts as the visible element of electromagnetic radiation, which consists of oscillating quanta of energy. Various complementary theories have described the properties of light. Sir Isaac Newton (1642 –1726) discovered that white light is made up of individual prismatic colours. With his corpuscular model, he proved that particles of energy (photons) travel in a straight line at the speed of light from the light source. Newton regarded light as a kind of hailstorm of tiny spheres of energy that behave like particles. His theory could not, however, explain how light permeates matter, the refraction of light in water or glass, for example. The wave model postulated by Christiaan Huygens (1629 –1695) at around the same time assumed that light is made up of electromagnetic oscillations originating in a source. This enabled him to explain what Newton’s model could not: proper51
Colour in the city – colour in the countryside Consultation and planning instruments for colour in public spaces Lino Sibillano, Stefanie Wettstein
Designing, planning and using colour in urban and rural contexts has never been as challenging and demanding as it is today. The history of colour in architecture is also a history of technology and the skilled trades, and colour has been deter mined at least as much by the available materials and technical possibilities as by the specific taste of a period. Until the early 20th century, only a small range of materials and colours was available for designing facades and economic factors further restricted the range of colours used in everyday architecture. A tradi tional use of colour and materials handed down from generation to generation also contributed to continuity in the use of col our in architecture. Unwritten rules gov erned the use of public space and peo ples’ behaviour in it, while social and economic reasons meant that architec tural and chromatic extravagance was reserved for a small privileged class. Until well into the 20th century, even without widespread regimentation, these techni cal, economic and social factors led to consistent and harmonious colouring in cities and villages. These colour schemes were also usually determined by the col ours of local materials.
olour portrait of Augustinergasse, Zurich C (see photograph on the left of a row of houses in Augustinergasse).
technical and manual trade skills and a sensitivity to colour have often not been able to keep pace with the expansion of the colour palette. A glance at the cur ricula for apprentices and architecture students shows that classes on colour design are usually only marginal. As a result, colour is frequently planned with the help of digital tools and product-spe cific collections or with standardised col our charts such as NCS and RAL. Deci sions on colour are often made within pre-determined chromatic worlds with the colours specific to them, disconnected from their immediate colour context, so issues concerning materials and their application by tradespeople recede into the background.
Now the technical possibilities have been immensely expanded and an almost endless range of colours is avail able for designing facades. People are also confronted with a more liberal and complex social and economic reality, one defined by global markets, trends, and an intense desire for individuality. As a result, they often lose sight of the broader context of community and local colour traditions. The use of colour in architecture is no longer self-regulating in today’s world.
Paradoxically, we are now facing an expansion of the colour palette along with a strong tendency to standardise chromophoric products. The trend is also accompanied by a decline in trades people’s skills. This problem is now particularly prevalent in the renovations of old buildings to improve energy effi ciency. During such projects, colours, materials and surface structures typical of a certain era often disappear behind standardised exterior insulation finishing systems, which usually use a thin layer of organic-based plaster. The expansion of the colour palette seems to have replaced variety in materials, surface structures and processing techniques. More recently, this has often led to dis crepancies between architectural lan guage, material and colour. Historic characteristics are disappearing and living space, whether urban or rural, threatens to lose in aesthetic diversity and heterogeneity what it gains in colour ful variety.
Other factors also make a high-quality use of colour more difficult. In particular,
Most of the responsibility for the colour culture in public spaces currently lies
with the public authorities. They need objective principles and overarching urban development colour strategies in order to be able to make sound, sustainable decisions and to prevent discussions on colour held during plan ning permission procedures from becoming emotional and government decisions from being perceived as arbitrary. Measures for promoting high-quality decisions on colour
The following measures could be taken by the public authorities to improve the quality of the use of colour in public space: Provision of planning fundamentals and tools A basic prerequisite for making sophisti cated and context-based decisions on colour is the existence of site-specific studies on colour and colour strategies and tools such as colour charts, colour swatches, material samples and guide lines, which support the implementation of such decisions. Raising people’s awareness of colour A further prerequisite for a positive devel opment of colour use in public spaces is an ongoing and effective effort to raise people’s awareness of the issue. Exhibi tions, lectures, brochures and tours help residents to understand the topic and reflect their immediate living space, mak ing it possible to use colour to help peo ple identify with their environment and strengthening citizens’ feelings of respon sibility for public space. Involving colour specialists Another decisive factor for a sophisti cated and high-quality use of colour and materials is the involvement of appropri ately trained experts in decision-making bodies and planning teams. 61
Colour in 1970s architecture in Berlin und Zurich – on the history of colour culture for the use of colour now and in the future
Architecture directly meets society’s needs as far as possible and reacts to current requirements, difficulties or deficits. The same goes for colour in architecture. Research on this topic became established in the 1960s and 1970s. This was in fact a resumption of the discourse on colour that began in the early 20th century and was connected with debates on urban development and politics, as well as with contemplation on the relationship between architecture and history. The late 1960s and early 1970s were a very eventful period: the Vietnam War, student riots, the moon landing and the oil crisis were just a few of the highlights that characterised this time of change and upheaval. A longing for a more open society and for fundamental change shaped everyday life. At the same time, a Pop Art wave emanating from the US und the UK spread to Central Europe, bringing with it an “everything-is-possible” attitude, which turned the everyday into the fantastical and sought to experiment. This new sense of colour, coloured intensity and colourful atmospheres needed form, which it found, for example, in the vividly coloured interiors of Danish designer Verner Panton, who
made sensational futuristic visions out of Dralon fibre . New means of production and technical possibilities were researched and, in some cases, included as experiments; alternative uses of materials were explored; and their potential was investigated. 1970s architecture still yields a wealth of information on these developments. Buildings were enhanced inside and out by the use of colour. Based on these mixtures, a very special mix was created that expressed a range of colours typical of the time. Various periods forge their own colour identities and depict cycles in architectural history in cities or the countryside. These cycles use colour to form the urban landscape and create atmospheres specific to particular cities . They make a substantial contribution to a city’s various characters . The architectural historian Julius Posener often speaks in his lectures about the need for precise observation and indi vidual alertness in observing objects . The latter requires us to trust our sensory organs. Perception is not free. It is controlled by systems that are based on previously acquired knowledge and correspond with our expectations. Our
field of observation is limited and defined from the outset. People see what is familiar to them and what they expect to see. We can only change our evaluation or appraisal of a familiar situation if we become aware of the limitations of our own powers of observation and expand the range of our perceptions. As well as the issue of observation, the topic of evaluation thus plays a role in this process. Every decision to conserve a building is based on agreement within society. The question of a building’s significance for the present is raised insistently and incessantly. Decisions are made on the basis of the building’s reception, in which evaluations and reevaluations can change. What constitutes a historic building for example, is based on an understanding of what should be kept in the wider social memory. This makes preserving the archi tecture of the preceding generation a particularly precarious process, which often involves conflict between the generations. Despite all the processes and provisions for protecting buildings, decisions to demolish or completely redesign a building are often made relatively quickly and without subjecting the structure to closer inspection.
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einickendorf Tax Office in Berlin (D) 1974, R Rainer Gerhard Rümmler Entrance area and post room on the ground floor of the tax office The lift invites visitors to discover the building. The next floor prefers green Symbolic figures point the way to the toilets Colour provides orientation in a corridor corner
Colour in 1970s architecture
Economic and ecological issues may now be the preeminent concerns. The knowledge and, above all, the time required to develop an understanding of an individual structure and its location are usually lacking. However, precise observation repeatedly opens up new opportunities for us to examine, question, and perhaps revise our opinions, and to open our eyes to new aspects of visual experience, such as the diversity and differences of surfaces or the play of light. This means not falling into the trap of selective perception, but rather engaging with an object and subjecting it to a precise visual inspection without preconceived ideas. This can be a delightful and sometimes very surprising undertaking, and not only as regards colour and architecture. The wide variety of urban space can be successfully expanded: diversity, not monotony; clear legibility of urban development, not uniformity. This is not about tastes or preferences, but rather a fundamental acceptance of different attitudes towards history, the city and /or landscape. Even if it is sometimes difficult to accept a certain form or design of a building, the focus should always be on
the fact that it may be a typical representative of a specific period and as such hold important information . A building only functions well when all its components interact. If individual parts are changed, the overall impression of the building loses the impact of its design as a single entity. This article focuses on 1970s architecture. The buildings are now facing renovation and modernisation or are at risk of being lost to demolition. Experience has shown that renovation often leads to the loss of essential details, such as typical colouring, which has often become strange and incomprehensible in the meantime. Caution is needed here, as colour is a constitutive element of architecture and its loss can permanently damage a building’s overall impact. If work is based on contemporary taste and a building is coloured in updated shades, the aesthetic of the period in which it was built will be essentially destroyed. Colour functions in context. A successful colour concept expands and interprets architecture, and lends it an additional level of content. It is a basic material of architectural design .
In contrast to the approach taken with the now canonised buildings of the 1920s, such as those by Bruno Taut or Le Corbusier, only a small circle of experts is currently striving to broaden our understanding of 1970s buildings and their design and drawing up appropriate planning criteria for future construction measures. In the following sections, two striking examples from Berlin and Zurich will show how one can examine buildings without preconceived notions, document them attentively, explore their wealth of detail and tap into their potential. Berlin, Finanzamt Reinickendorf (Reinickendorf Tax Office) – surprises, floor by floor Rectangles fitted compactly into one another, some with softly rounded edges, others with sharp contours; horizontal layers, vertical stripes; and eight storeys high in total. The building’s street number, 208, is emblazoned in yellowish orange at the top and is easily visible from far away (Fig. 1, p. 80). Below it are brown, anthracite and beige facade surfaces, and on its narrow sides there are round towers with rectangular light beige sur-
From classic Modernism to contemporary colour design
Many of the classic buildings of Neues Bauen (Modernist architecture) demon strate a radically new and knowledge able treatment of colour in space in which Modernist design principles are recognisable. The appearance of influen tial Modernist buildings and housing schemes, which was shaped by the demands of modern societies, as well as by industrial building materials and technologies, shows how colour and form were planned as a unity at an early stage in the design process. The control of the atmospheric, tectonic and semiotic effects of all bodies and surfaces in light was based on a symbiotic development of the language of colour and the form of architectural space. Modernism’s timeless aesthetic is still shaped today by “visual thinking”, which no longer followed principles drawn from cultural history such as styles and ordering principles, but instead defined functions that were communicated to the user through the visual design of architectural space (see “Colour in 1970s architecture”, p. 80ff.). Architec ture’s external appearance broke away from the ideals of the past and concen trated on content arising from current social issues. Colour in architecture becomes a witness and a reflection of its time when it no longer strives for beauty but rather for veracity . The colour and form theories of the Bauhaus movement demonstrated this change from craftsmanship to visual thinking, which was based on a systematic inter action with social progress in theory and practice . The Ulm School of Design was instrumental in establishing Modern ism’s essential education mission in the wider field of design education and is one reason why design is now taught as a research method for actively shaping society . We have known for a long time that the visual perception of images, 88
objects and spaces forms people. Mod ernism no longer legitimated visual com munication and design through historic references, but through the relevance of its statements to the present and future. The Bauhaus master Josef Albers, who was also a guest lecturer in Ulm, published his still unique treatise on colour theory, Interaction of Color in 1963 . He no longer used colour merely as decoration, but rather for its spatial effects. In contrast, Bauhaus master Josef Itten’s colour theory, which is more popular in the area of general education because it is more easily accessible, largely consists of a systematisation of colour contrasts that have long been familiar. To this were added some of the psychological effects of colour described by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and transferred by Itten to design issues for the first time . The central importance of form in design in modern societies is made clear by numerous publications that explored and constantly updated modern con struction principles . This focus on the overall education and training pro cess means that colour is now less important and is not included at all in the teaching of design principles to trainee architects . Modernism’s language of colour has still not been comprehen sively reworked and updated, although several excellent monographs describe the sophisticated and knowledgeable use of colour made by major represent atives of Neues Bauen . This book cannot repeat all this information, and nor does it aim to do so. However, it is worth taking a brief look at Modernism’s language of colour, which is inseparably linked to form in all the classic buildings of Neues Bauen. This unity is now being carefully re-established in the restoration of listed buildings because authentic reconstruction of the colours of the mate
rials is very important in understanding Modernism (see “Colour in 20th century architecture”, p. 71ff.). Some selected and clearly recognisable Modernist design principles that use colour and form as equally important design elements and synergistically as design tools are described below. A comparison of Modernist classics with contemporary buildings is designed to inspire readers to consider ways in which the principles of modern colour design could now be updated and systematically further developed. The abstraction principle Abstract or non-figurative art developed in the early 20th century parallel to similar movements in painting, sculp ture, music and architecture. Centuries of established aesthetic orders were questioned. Jazz and twelve-tone com position, geometric abstractions of the human body, and compositions of lines and areas of colour characterised what was often an interdisciplinary search by the avant-garde for new forms of expres sion. This movement was accompanied by the development of new structural principles, which resulted in a renuncia tion of the doctrine of harmony that had hitherto applied and promoted the devel opment of new atonal and expressive means. The so-called freeing of colour was linked with the task of linking its con tent to symbolic statements. Colour was no longer used in an iconographic way, but freely on surfaces, composed in the object and in space. From the abstract principles of Con structivism, the next logical step was to abandon architecture’s orthogonal grids and horizontal frameworks. Turning a line around a randomly chosen refer ence point or shifting a grid resulted in the deconstruction of the image space, an expansion of the abstraction principle
From classic Modernism to contemporary colour design
that was then transferred to objects and spaces. Architecture’s equilibrium principle was abolished in a process accelerated by the use of new materials such as reinforced concrete. The struc tural lines of force were designed in concrete in a way that was invisible to the observer, thus abolishing what had until then been visually comprehensible systems of load bearing. Architecture became a three-dimensional image space in which anything was imaginable and modern technology made a great deal possible. The Schröder House in Utrecht (Fig. 2) by Gerrit Rietveld shows an abstract treatment of colour that has parallels with the paintings of Piet Mondrian (Fig. 1), as well as with Constructivism and Con crete Art. For this house, Rietveld com posed a structure of differently coloured lines and surface elements from the image through the object in space. This approach is still used today as a design principle in architecture, painting and graphic design. The architecture of recent decades has shown many exam ples of constructively and deconstruc tively developed spatial compositions of coloured surfaces and linear elements that use the abstraction principle. CAD
designs that can carry out any mathe matical operations, compose picture elements and further develop them until implementation have played a major role in the spread of this principle all over the world. The Unilever Headquarters in Hamburg by Behnisch Architekten is a current example of a contemporary further development of the abstraction principle (Fig. 3). The inside-outside principle The contrast between inside and outside reveals the various demands made on built space, which should defy the ele ments, represent messages, and convey a sense of security. Incisions in a build ing’s external shell that reveal the inside and create an exciting contrast are a new form principle in Modernism that can only be read through colour con trasts. Without coloured markings, inci sions in a building only reinforce the sculptural effect of its mass, as the open ings created in this way are unambigu ously part of the building’s outer shell. As with the human body, the transition from outside to inside is characterised by clear changes in colour. The coloured incisions in the building in the Le Corbusier House in the Weißenhof
housing estate in Stuttgart (Fig. 4) indi cate the exciting contrast between the clear volume of the exterior space and the different atmosphere of the interior. Le Corbusier also used this principle in his unités d’habitation, in which he contrasted the uniformity of the “machine for living in” with the individuality of its inhabitants. Incisions in a monolithic concrete-grey form reveal the interior’s polychromatic repertoire. The team from Collaborative Architects from Mumbai, India, used this principle in their design of JDT Pri mary School (Fig. 5). Here it is especially clear that incisions in the building are assigned to interior or exterior space on the basis of their colours. The insideoutside principle also works where no windows can be seen. The sculptural principle The dramatic presentation of the sculp tural impact of a building in a natural landscape is one of the oldest principles in architecture, as the Egyptian pyramids and the Acropolis still show today. Form and colours contrast sharply with the sur rounding landscape, as both phenomena express the cultural activities of people, who form and colour materials according
1 2 3 4 4
Piet Mondrian, Tableau I, with black, red, yellow, blue and light blue, 1921, oil on canvas. Interior of the Schröder House in Utrecht (NL)1924, Gerrit Rietveld. Unilever Headquarters in Hamburg (D) 2009, Behnisch Architekten. Weißenhof housing estate, Le Corbusier House in Stuttgart (D) 1927, Le Corbusier. JDT Primary School in Kerala (IND) 2012, Collabo rative Architects.
University building in Paris (F)
Périphériques architectes, Paris Emanuelle Marin, Anne-Françoise Jumeau, David Trottin Assistants: Stéphane Razafindralambo, Sébastien Truchot Structural engineering: OTH Bâtiments, Paris
This building on the Jussieu Campus near the historical centre of Paris complements the university buildings built on a rigorous orthogonal grid by architect Édouard Albert in the 1960s for 45,000 students and researchers. The architects simultaneously continued and varied the existing system. Instead of a single inner courtyard, the new building has two, one covered with ETFE foil cushions. This atrium channels circulation throughout the building and forms a vertical spatial focus. a Entering from the street, the entry level, a ramp bent and folded in several places, leads fluidly into the hall. The hall can 1 be crossed by means of escalators and bridges on the upper floors. The access zones’ striking monochrome colouring, which varies according to their use, helps visitors to find their way around. Largeformat pre-cast concrete balustrades along the stairs and encircling galleries characterise the hall’s overall spatial impact. These elements’ weight and roughness contrasts with the building’s light facade cladding, which is made of aluminium panels perforated in various patterns that filter the daylight.
Site plan Scale 1:7500 Floor plan Scale 1:1500 Cross section Scale 1:750 Vertical cross section • horizontal cross section Scale 1:20 View of prefabricated element Scale 1:100 1 2 3
Plateau, existing building (Édouard Albert) Courtyard Atrium
Examples of projects University building in Paris (F) 4
10 4 bb
4 Bevel, circumferential 5/5 mm 5 Prefabricated component reinforced concrete B 40, poured in a smooth-sanded steel form; surface facing the atrium natural colour, smooth; surface to the gallery coated with colour 120 mm 6 Coloured epoxy resin coating reinforced concrete 200 mm 7 Hanging light fixture 8 Steel screw socket for transport, filled in after installation 9 Recess at the edge, filled with grouting mortar after installation 10 Joint sealing, permanently elastic, black
New town centre, Barking (GB) 3 2 1 5
llford Hall Monaghan Morris A (AHMM), London Structural engineering: Buro Happold, London Beattie Watkinson, London
Revitalising the centre of Barking to the east of London has been one of the United Kingdom’s most important re development projects of recent years. A masterplan was carried out over nine years in two construction phases. During the first phase, the library dating from the 1970s was renovated and extended to include an art gallery and conference rooms. A six-storey residential building on the adjoining former Rope Works fac tory site completes the ensemble, which contains 246 one and two-bedroom apart ments. Phase two involved the construc tion of a 66-bed hotel, a shopping centre, a bike parking facility and three residen tial buildings – Bath House, Lemonade Building and Axe Street. A public square with a park-like arboretum serves as a meeting place and focal point of the new town centre. Although all the buildings in the complex are highly individual in form and design, they are united by a shared colour palette that draws on two sources. The first is the arboretum, which takes its range of colours from the various colours of the leaves that vary according to the season. The other inspiration was the yellow and green striped logo of the former R. White’s Lemonade factory. The uniform brown brick facade of Bath House is accentuated by balconies in autumnal colours such as ochre and pur ple. In contrast, the Rope Works above the library makes use of the colours of springtime, with compact balconies pain ted in pastel green and bright yellow. This range of colours was also used on the 17-storey Lemonade Building apart ment block, whose loggias on the side of the building are clad with green and yel low panels, contrasting with the restrained beige of its brick facade.
Examples of projects New town centre, Barking (GB)
Site plan Scale 1:2000 View from the north no scale Detailed cross section, Bath House facade scale 1:20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Arboretum Bath House residential building Piano Works residential building Lemonade high-rise residential building Library and Rope Works residential building Learning Centre Bike parking facility Axe Street residential building
9 Cover plate, aluminium 10 Brick facing, brown brick 102 mm, Ibstock Cheddar, rear-ventilated, special joints every 4 bricks Substructure, stainless steel Insulation 50 mm Fibre-cement panel 10 mm Insulation 100 mm 11 French doors: insulating glazing in combi nation frames, outside powder-coated aluminium, inside wood 12 Railings, flat steel, galvanised, powder-coated 10/40 mm 13 Balcony flooring, pinewood planks, grooved 144/27 mm 14 Aluminium sheeting on fibre-cement supporting slab 12.5 mm 15 Substructure, steel frame, galvanised 180 mm 16 Plasterboard stud wall 2≈ 12.5 mm
Authors Axel Buether Trained as a stone mason; studied architecture, gaining a doctorate in the interdisciplinary area of neuropsychology and design with a thesis on the semiotics of perceptual space; worked on architecture, design and media art projects; appointed in 2006 as director of the Deutsches Farbenzentrum e. V. – Zentralinstitut für Farbe in Wissenschaft und Gestaltung, an interdisciplinary association that has hosted international conferences, held competitions and provided education and training on colour for 50 years; served as Professor of Colour, Light and Space at Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle (Saale) from 2006 to 2012; declined an appointment in 2012 as a professor at Hochschule Hannover – the University of Applied Sciences and Arts for the subject of creativity and the psychology of perception; has worked as a professor at the University of Wuppertal since 2012, teaching the Didactics of Visual Communication (www.axelbuether.de). Anke Augsburg Studied design, majoring in sculpture, at Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle (Saale) from 1990 to 1996; then studied engineering for lighting design at Hildesheim /Holzminden /Göttingen University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HAWK); has run her own lighting design and planning firm in Leipzig since 2005 (www.lichtarchitekten.com). Thomas Danzl Trained as an ecclesiastical painter; studied art history and history at the University of Florence; completed professional advanced training at ICCROM in Rome and Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence; continued his studies at the University of Udine, focusing on conservation and architectural preservation; completed a doctorate in art history and history at Universität Regensburg from 1994 to 1997; served as director of the Restoration Department of the State Office for Architectural Conservation and Archaeology in Saxony-Anhalt from 1998 to 2006; director of the restoration workshops of the Austrian Federal Monuments Office from 2006 to 2008; appointed honorary professor in 2007 and professor in 2009 at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts; director of the specialist course on art technology, conservation and restoration of murals, and colours in architecture. Andreas Kalweit Studied mechanical engineering at the Hochschule Niederrhein – University of Applied Sciences; studied industrial design at the University of DuisburgEssen; co-founded an agency in 1998 and has worked successfully since then in the field of industrial and corporate design for renowned international companies; holds a teaching position at the University of Wuppertal; with his dual qualifications as a mechanical engineer and a graduate industrial designer, now works at the interface between design and engineering for industry and on research projects; his work focuses on manufacturing and materials technology and on construction techno logy and systems in industrial design. AnneMarie Neser Studied art history, history and political science in Heidelberg and Berlin (M. A.); completed her dissertation at Berlin University of the Arts (architecture), supervised by Professor Johann Friedrich Geist; director of Werkraum Berlin and teacher at the Haus der Farbe Zurich and the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam; board member of the Deutsches Farbenzentrum; freelance work as an architectural history expert, author and management consultant.
Timo Rieke Studied social science at the University of Göttingen from 1995 to 1998; moved to the design faculty at Hildesheim /Holzminden /Göttingen University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HAWK) in 1998; graduated as a colour designer in 2003 and opened his own studio in Hanover, focusing on basic research on colour, colour consulting, surface design and graphic design; moved his studio to Vienna in 2006; has taught colour design at HAWK since 2011, with a focus on basic principles, product colour and colour planning; founded the interdisciplinary Visual Haptics Labs in Hamburg in 2012. Lino Sibillano Studied art history, theatre and music at the universities of Zurich and Bern; worked as an assistant at Collegium Helveticum, a laboratory for transdisciplinarity at ETH Zurich (including managing the Artist-in-Residence Programme) from 1998 to 2001; as a result of this experience co-founded PROJEKT ART+, a laboratory for interdisciplinary and intercultural artistic collaboration, with Darko Senekovic in 2004; the virtual platform www.citysharing.ch developed from this initiative; has worked as co- director and lecturer at the Haus der Farbe in Zurich since 2001. Axel Venn Studied design and free composition with Professor E. Hitzberger at Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen; Emeritus Professor of Colour Design and Trend-scouting at Hildesheim University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Design Faculty; frequent guest speaker at numerous universities all over the world; enjoys an international reputation as a colour, marketing and aesthetics mentor; staff member of organisations, associations, industrial and commercial enterprises, conference and management consulting companies; conducts international lectures and seminars and has published diverse journalistic works internationally. Marcella Wenger-Di Gabriele Attended a technical design college and completed vocational training as a designer in Bern; trained as a colour designer at Technikerschule HF Zürich from 1995 to 1998; works as a freelance designer and colour design teacher; has served as head of the teaching workshop at the Haus der Farbe – Schule für Handwerk und Gestaltung in Zurich since 2011. Stefanie Wettstein Studied art history at the University of Zurich; completed her doctoral thesis on decorative painting at the turn of the 20th century in 1996; worked on the building research team at Fontana & Fontana AG in Jona-Rapperswil from 1986 to 1999; worked as assistant to Professor Werner Oechslin at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture at ETH Zurich from 1993 to 1997; has served as co- director of the Haus der Farbe – Schule für Hand werk und Gestaltung in Zurich since 1999; has cowritten various publications on the topic of colour design in architecture with Lino Sibillano as part of the research workshop at the Haus der Farbe.
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