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Out of the Blue and Into the Pink: Considering a Colour of Cliché “Colour is today’s prostitute…The more effective the colour the more able it is to convey the presentness that was once her purview, and the way colour is used rather than which colour is selected is of the most consequence when you are a streetwalker.”1 The obvious architectural correlations to the colour pink might begin in a conversation of Ricardo Legorreta or Luis Barragan, the quintessential project being Caudra San Christobál stables, where walls are lathered in pink and adjacent surfaces absorb their reflection. The rosy space is captured for the cover of Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness; a presumably earlier cover edition depicted a blue cottage and a pink modernist villa. Both houses are bucolic in essence, the cottage due to its typological nature and the villa due to its colouration, yet the Barragan cover framing a white cast horse in front of a pink wall captures the imagination of the text’s content. Moving beyond the parameters of an architectural context, pink can be considered the colour of pop-culture as it operates between high and low as an Andy Warhol screen print, or Marilyn Monroe slithering around tuxedo-clad suitors in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes—a look later appropriated by Madonna for her “Material Girl” video—or the Barbie-esque self-curation preformed by Paris Hilton driving her infamous pink Bentley around Los Angeles.

Botton: The Architecture of Happiness cover comparison, 2006 (Pantheon Books)

Monroe: still from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953 (20th Century Fox) Madonna: still from Material Girl, 1984 (mtv.com/videos/madonna/21268/material-girl.jhtml)

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Sylvia Lavin, "What Colour Is It Now?" Perspecta 35: Building Codes, 2004 page106


Sylvia Lavin’s theorization of Baudrillard’s prostitute proves that the deployment of effect trumps curatorial authorship. It is difficult to resist the typical bourgeois babble when subjects like pink and prostitutes collide ideologically as the colour itself embodies many parallel qualities of the street walker: taboo, garish, novelty, feminine, flesh, sexual. The shift between simply naming the colour pink and dialing into a saturation of specificity is required as magenta is the pink deployed in contemporary projects and discourse. Lavin’s own book Kissing Architecture (2011) divulges in the interdisciplinary promiscuity between architecture and art practices and upholsters their tryst in a magenta-cloth cover. With a slippery silver interior and shiny embossed font—a wink to Warhol— the combination of magenta and silver has successfully coupled both contemporary practices through the material selection and its deployment of the book-object. Considering Lavin’s book title and content, artist Marilyn Minter comes to mind as her 2009 video art piece, Green Pink Caviar, was mounted in the MoMA; salacious lips and a foreign tongue pushed gooey colour across glass, lapping up the museum wall in the process. Lasting merely seven minutes and 45 seconds, visitors circulating through MoMA were forced to view the video installation as its location was on axis to the second-floor escalators and demanded a full-frontal view, a brief encounter transitioning to the next floor. If visitors were to pause for the seven-minutes in heaven, the curatorial gesture of placing Green Pink Caviar may have elevated their visit to the remaining floors of MoMA as Minter’s use of gustatory colour oscillates between the tool of an artist’s palette and the conceptually discriminating palate—a double-entre in visual and internal consumption.

Lavin: Kissing Architecture cover, 2011 (press.princeton.edu) Minter: still from Green Pink Caviar, 2009 (marilynminter.net/video/greenpinkcaviar)

Operating between sensations of taste and colour perception, the double-entre acts as a lens in which to consume the following projects and examples of pink. It begins with an antidote theorized by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in his text Bubbles in which he cites Friedrich W. Heubach’s ‘candy experience’ where upon unwrapping a single piece of candy and placing it in the mouth, the subject ingesting the sugary confection becomes reoriented around the sensation of the candy and is displaced as a singular subject: One is encircled oneself, and ultimately exists only as the finer, ever tauter periphery of this ball of sweetness; one closes one’s eyes and finally implodes: taking on the characteristics of a ball oneself, one forms one object with the world that has now become round in sweetness.2

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Peter Sloterdijk, Bubbles: Microspherology, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2011 pages 90-95


Based on Heubach’s tale, Sloterdijk justifies “the reason why strong minds usually despise sweetness can be partly explained by the subversive effects that sweet things, and sticky things even more, arouse in the proud subject…” as if succumbing to the sweetness is irrational. In this case, candy is representative of pink, and the lack of seriousness paid to the colour should be reconsidered under the terms of presentness of the aforementioned prostitute. Effects of binging on this pink-candy may result in a chromatose state. ---

Fragonard: The Swing, 1767 (wallacelive.wallacecollection.org) Luhrmann: Love Nest still from The Great Gatsby, 2013 (Warner Brothers)

Early instances of pink surface during the Rococo period of excessive court life and sensuality, later scrutinized by the rationality of Neoclassicism and Rousseauian dogmas. One of the most iconic examples of Rococo art that captures the zeitgeist’s frivolity is Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing, in which a young mistress climaxes on a garden swing in billowing pink silk. Just as she hits the apex of momentum, the pinnacle moment that elicits not only a peak up her frothy dress, her rose-coloured shoe slips of towards her lover below, adding visual momentum for the eye within the frame. The Swing is embroidered onto the furniture in Myrtle Wilson and Tom Buchanan’s love nest apartment in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 The Great Gatsby, referencing the sensation of Fragonard’s sensual velocity. Movement through the feminine, Rococo pictorial space of The Swing is reminiscent of similar spatial effects demonstrated by contemporary architect Florenica Pita and her 2004 installation Pulse: Tendril Formations. Proving more slippery than Fragonard’s materiality of pink hued oil paints, Pita covered the floors of Sci-Arc’s gallery in a hard candy pink shell, frosting the floor with crunchy geometries and confectionary complexities. The plasticy tendrils were structurally waffled and sandwiched by smooth, shiny pink plastic—like a delectable Parisian macaron. Poet Bruna Mori narrated the origin of Pulse and its innovative use of digital technology as the freestanding curves made their way through the white box gallery space with the selfawareness of the mistress swinging: One day, Pulse's flat figure started muscling up, and he was bathed in purple. Geometrical calculations were applied rigorously like calisthenics. This would prepare him, he thought, for the "extrusion of two-dimensional materials into a three-dimensional pattern and flow to accentuate ornamentation through structure and volume without infrastructure." As the tendril became progressively feverish from exhaustion, he heard a


distant voice shriek, "That's the colour!" He proceeded to be flushed in Magenta 67, which made him loop up like a Richard Serra torque…3 The shift from purple to magenta in Mori’s poem excerpt designates the effect of digital geometries imposed on form, pushing tectonics to the breaking point (read: climax) resulting in Pita’s sinuous forms swathed in pink. The naming of Pulse as male in character appears to balance-or counteractthe femininity expressed by Pita’s aesthetic. A slight tinge of irony sets in when considering other historical architecture project that produce curvilinear procession through space and the colour pink, as in Frank Lloyd Wright’s proposal for the Guggenheim.

Pita: Pulse: Tendril Formations, 2004 (fpmod.com) Wright: the Guggenheim in pink (The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation & The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)

Because of his misogynistic reputation, Wright seems to be an unlikely companion in the conversation of magenta and feminine forms. He did, however, produce several renderings in a variety of colours for Solomon R. Guggenheim’s Museum of Non-Objective Painting ranging from variations of rust, orange, pink, and beige. The renderings depicted a monument that synthesized both form and colour, calling attention to the use of colour and its role in an architecture of permanence. The rendered image of the magenta museum adjacent to the lush greenery of Central Park yields not only complementary chromatic effects by placing a pink cultural institution alongside a picturesque ‘nature,’ but also situates the site as one of power on Fifth Avenue: an extroverted, reactionary pink Guggenheim against modernist Manhattan. Pink was more than likely the least appropriate colour to wear on the Upper East Side, but it appears to be permissible once it has transcended the interior threshold. James Turrell’s recent intervention into the Guggenheim’s atrium reads as an introverted Wright, saturating the spiraling space with a flood of magenta LEDs and confirms any interior suspicions when using the colour pink. The inversion of an external expression also occurs in The Villa design by FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste). Located outside of Rotterdam in the modest town of Hoogvliet, Netherlands, The Villa serves as a community center for Heerlijkheid Park. While the exterior plays with ideas of the decorated shed and the industrial local vernacular, magenta is sprinkled through out the project and the site. Moments where magenta occurs outside of the main civic building are likened to smallscale Tschumi follies, where a network of activities become cohesive through out the site by using the singular pink colour. Inside the cladded civic building, the steel structure is painted magenta and does not hide within walls or a drop ceiling; instead, the structure reads as graphic and honest in its tectonic work. Drawing a parallel to Wright’s Pink Guggenheim, consideration to paint the steel frame magenta as a means for effect likewise reads as a reaction to modernism’s fetishization of all things chrome. A short fifteen-minute drive north of The Villa is the 1931 Van Nelle Factory— an exemplar of early modernism’s machine aesthetic—where steel structure is expressed and any finishes that could not express a modernist material logic were painted silver as not to the detract from the gesamtkunstwerk. The use of chrome finishes and silver paint were not only to impart the

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Mori’s poem can be found at http://architettura.it/architetture/20060724/


machine age onto the architecture of the time, but also to produce performative effects where reflective surfaces emphasized tectonic surfaces and planes by reducing their obvious existence or distracting posture. Unlike a Neutra house, where the wood frame was painted silver to suggest a machinist materiality, The Van Nelle Factory was comprised of a mix of real and faux chrome atop metal and disappeared into the building’s white and glass envelope. The Villa denies any need for the structure to disappear and instead makes its proclamation boldly in pink, but relegates this moment of soft machismo strictly to the interior and not as an exterior expression. The single excessive magenta instance outside of the main building and the smaller follies occurs at the entrance of the park where a timber-clad bridge is smoothly finished in a pink interior, designating circulation and threshold. The use of magenta strictly for interior effect and circulation is common theme in other contemporary projects like UN Studio’s Agora Theatre and Holiday Home.

FAT: The Villa & Heerlijkheid Bridge, 2008 (fashionarchitecturetaste.com) UNStudio: Theatre Agora’s pink ribbon, 2007 (unstudio.com)

In Leystad, Netherlands, Theatre Agora poses itself as a sculptural object rather than a procession-based, frontal architecture: it invites visitors to walk around and experience an exterior of warm monochromatic shades that reverberate against a blue canvas of sky. The exterior is clad in a variety of surfaces that include corrugated, perforated and solid sheet metal to create a moirépatterned envelope. A red ribbon folds into the undulated façade and wraps the building, pulling itself into the lobby. The ribbon then transforms into the core circulation and gradates in colour to a saturated magenta that continues to coat the pristine white stairs. The sun floods the core and the pink ribbon glows like neon, absorbed into every adjacent surface and candy-coating the atrium space. The use of magenta and white as a preformative colour-combination can be traced back to UNStudio’s Holiday Home installation at the ICA Philadelphia in 2006 where a generic, iconographic house was extruded into diagrammatic planes, producing skewed perspectives from within.4 The elongated extensions from this explosive process created dynamic lighting effects across the magenta interior and intensified the chromatic effects as the immateriality of seasonal light and shadow moved across the interior surfaces, submerging visitors deep into chromatic saturation.


Another example of saturated submersion includes the Blobwall Pavilion, an aggregated magenta and red grottoesque structure. The pop of colour demonstrated the specificity of the plastic and situated the project somewhere between a children’s toy and an Erwin Worm take on Renaissance rustication.4 A most interesting musing to be considered on Blobwall Pavilion, is not necessarily found in the geometries and the systems of organization that allow the individually bouilloned pieces to interlock as blob-bricks standing tall without the necessary aid of a secondary structure, but rather the documentation and public appearance of the first Blobwall system as it made its way to the Sci-arc gallery for installation. Strapped to the bed of a truck, the pink wall was transported across the city with the pomp and circumstance of a beauty queen, parading past local landmarks such as Paul Smith’s pepto-coloured boutique and the infamous Pink’s Hot Dogs. The highlight of the staged tour, however, occurred when Blobwall glided by Cesear Pelli’s Pacific Design Center where the two systems of modular facades were in dialog with one another as Blobwall engaged the planar blue-curtain wall with its soft geometries and pink pixelated pattern. Blobwall’s patterning not only distinguishes the customized part-to-whole relationship of each ‘no two are the same’ blob module, but also instigates a contemporary camouflage—the 21st century Razzle Dazzle—the point where coloured pattern intersects technological advancements in image and view.5

Lynn: Blobwall in Los Angeles, 2008 (glform.com/blobwall.html)

Experiments at the unlikely intersection of camouflage and pink include artist Richard Mosse’s 2011 photo series Infra and his 2013 Venice Biennale contribution The Enclave. Mosse used discontinued 16mm Kodak colour-infrared film to capture the war-torn landscape of the Congo. Invented during World War II, the specialty film was used to detect camouflaged enemies among fields of foliage; Mosse appropriates the film for its Technicolour aesthetic rendering a place of everyday violence into a fantastical land, where the refugee camps, rebels and rape are prevalent. “People are offended by the colour pink,” Mosse discloses in a promotion video of The Enclave; magenta’s affect on the film frames the machismo poses of the rebel soldiers into a space of feminine colour and memory. The use of colour in this political juxtaposition still reinforces pink as a taboo colour, one that cannot be inserted into serious matters without some critical repercussions—a quick glance at the viewer comments informs the artist’s blight. Perhaps a more digestible example is found in the 1998 film Pleasantville, a complacent community coloured in black-and-white are introduced to loose morals and colour. The “Leave It to Beaver” morals are challenged through rebellious behavior, particularly in scenes that involve sexual exploration and commonly result in the characters shedding their pasty complexions for blushing colour. Pink is found in the film during moments that exude sensuality. The Lovers Lane scene depicts Toby Maguire and his love interest winding down a black-and-white road as pink petals fall from the trees overhead and shower the convertible, only to emerge in a world of high chroma and hormonal teenagers, a landscape accompanied with plenty of symbolic pink roses.

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Initially in collaboration with Panelite, the Blob Wall has since been expanded into five colour-ways of recyclable and low-density plastic in ten various shades. 5 For more information on the correlation between technological advancement in warfare and camouflage: Jean-Louis Cohen, "Camouflage, or the Temptation of the Invisible," Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War, Montréal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2011 pages 187-215


Mosse: The Enclave, 2013 & Infra, 2011 (richardmosse.com) “Lovers Lane” still from Pleasantville, 1998 (New Line Cinema)

Deemed “The Superficial Issue,” Log 17 featured a poem by Jeffrey Kipnis titled “Colours” where a roll-call of colour and their corresponding affectations are delivered with personal reverence: Abandoned at birth and abused Raped, humiliated and starved of love A victim of repeated head injuries Rage viced into a thin, lizard-eye numb, Pink has issues. The chromopath of choice for today’s crowd.6 There appears to be a disciplinary amnesia when it comes to pink, lest we forget that even modernist masters dabbled in the delicate colour. Le Corbusier selected Rose as one of 20 colours in his LC43 colour palate in collaboration with Salubra, a wall paper company that specializes in authentic Corbusian pigments used in previously built work. 7 Mies van der Rohe suggested a set of pink suede Barcelona chairs to occupy Edith Farnsworth’s interior, setting the stage for a true bachelorette pad; she countered Miesian frivolity with her antique heirlooms and tragically deeming the pink chairs as cosmetic objects that would “make the house look like a Helena Rubenstein studio.” 8 In the spring of 2013, Rem Koolhaas debuted OMA’s first collaboration with Knoll—a furniture line featuring two pink lounge chairs. The historical reference to Mies was solidified in OMA’s foam geometries—which echoed the Barcelona chair’s square tufting—and the staging of the pink chairs alongside an image reminiscent of Georg Kolbe’s Alba statue found in the Barcelona Pavilion. Koolhass presented the collaborative pieces during Prada’s 2013 Autum/Winter Menswear collection fashion show in Milan, placing the feminine-charged furniture pieces among Italian suits and shades, challenging conceptions of consumerism and domesticity. Perhaps what architecture needs is Kipnis’ chromopathy, or simply a pair of rose-coloured lenses.

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Jeffrey Kipnis, "Colors," Log 17, 2009 page 137

Visit http://ktcolourusa.com Helena Rubenstein was a cosmetics company that emerged during the first World War, it’s major competitor was Elizabeth Arden. See: Alice T. Friedman, Women and the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History, New York: Abrams,1998 page 143

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Le Corbusier: Rose wall in Villa Savoye, 1928 (flickr.com/groups/ksa-travel) OMA/knoll: Tools for Living “Ideal Home,” 2013 (designboom.com)

Texts: Jean-Louis Cohen, "Camouflage, or the Temptation of the Invisible," Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War, Montréal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2011 pages 187-215 Jeffrey Kipnis, "Colors," Log 17, 2009 page 137 Sylvia Lavin, " An Architect is Not a Bee," A+U, vol. 8, issue 445, 2008 pages 12-14 Barbara Nemitz and Hideto Fuse, Pink: The Exposed Color in Contemporary Art and Culture, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2006 Peter Sloterdijk, Bubbles: Microspherology, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2011 pages 90-95 Penny Sparke, As Long as It's Pink: The Sexual Politics of Taste, London: Pandora, 1995

Out of the Blue and Into the Pink  

Culturally known as the most kitsch and taboo colour, pink has been making a recent appearance in contemporary architecture. At present, the...

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