Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

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

The book description begins with the intriguing:

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

What a Green Citizen sees via Bob Stewperson

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

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

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

The Modern Skyline, Part One

Chicago River Skyline via Wikipedia

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

Current Skyline Color Pallet
A rendering of the future skyline of Abu Dhabi via Construction Weekly

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

Future Skyline Color Pallet

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

Tokyo via Tokyo Nights Tumblr

– Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio

– Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio