The School of Color

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

Color to the Max

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


Harajuku street fashion

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

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

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



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