speech:architectural journal,color

speech issue about colour

Colour is one of the most expressive architectural media. It creates mood and influences perceptions. Moreover, it is capable of acting upon us not merely emotionally, but rationally as well: the colour codes that are embedded in a building may appeal to cultural memory or fashionable trends and may contain not merely overt or veiled semantic messages, but also instantly legible non-verbal information. Colour schemes are almost always subjective (and so non-essential). They are not governed by established standards or prescriptions; nor are they part of the functional programme of a building. However, it is precisely colour that often makes a design unique and finished, and it is thanks to colour that even a building with an ordinary shape may be turned into a work of art. In working with colour, architects manifest themselves as artists. And they have at their disposal today an enormous range of colours and materials – from the traditional to the most modern. Polychromicity in architecture goes back to ancient times and has just as long a history as architecture itself. However, this has never been a continuous line of development. And if colour has been a constant component of the interiors of buildings for many centuries, on building façades it has appeared at intervals only to disappear some time later – and sometimes for extremely long periods. Such variations – including periods when colour has been completely driven out – have occurred in the recent past too and were a recurring feature of the history of 20th-century architecture (as can be observed simply by looking out of the window or at one’s surroundings: the urban environment that surrounds us is precisely this history – and it is mainly monochrome). How colour can be used to dispel this monochromicity – and create architectural and urban accents that draw attention and are recognizable and memorable – and how many different opportunities there are for using colour in modern architecture are issues that we shall be looking at in this issue of SPEECH:”