Images: Architect Will Alsop’s designs for his City of the Future Vancouver, Canada
I started research on color and architecture. I found myself online looking at images from Europe and Asia of both environmentally responsible and colorful architecture. Why are other cultures so much more willing to use color on buildings than we are?
Is there a fear of color in our culture? I believe there is. An excellent book supporting this argument is Chromophobia, by David Batchelor. Batchelor defines the principle of chromophobia as a fear of corruption or contamination through color that has lurked in Western culture since ancient times. He argues that chromophobia is apparent in the many attempts to purge color from art, literature, and architecture either by making it the property of some foreign body, the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar or the pathological or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the inessential, the cosmetic.
Image: Chromaphobia by David Batchelor
Additionally, negative color statements have been made by people who are Icons in our field.
Even though Corbusier only produced one all white building, he is historically known for his crusade for white.
Image: Corbusier in his studio
Image: Corbusier design for a chapel in Rome
Richard Meier typically produces all white buildings and is a crusader for white.
Image: Richard Meier
Image: Jubilee Church in Rome, Italy
Image: The Getty Museum in Los Angeles California
As we become more global in all aspects of our experience, I predict the fear of color in architecture may shift.
Image: Photographer – Jerry Levy
With dwindling resources, and tight budgets, we have to rethink the materials and finishes we have available for construction. Color has the ability to trigger responses, and communicate volume, form, scale and detail. Color is in a position to assert itself as a viable tool to articulate architecture.
Image: Herzog and Demeuron highrise in Beijing, China
I remain optimistic that color will be used as a resource in the creation of spaces that have both sensual character and memorable qualities.