Colour in architecture is as important as form. It has a direct impact on our perception of a space, our mood and our movements. Colour is total at ata (formerly known as Adam Taylor Architecture).
A comprehensive research review for NASA (Wise et al, 1988) found there to be no “hard-wired linkages between colour and human response.” Meaning our personal beliefs about colour and colour symbolism directly influence our response. “One makes certain associations to colours and these, in turn, may mediate physiological response.” In the context of New Zealand housing, Kiwis believe white neutral homes are ideal particularly when it comes to selling. Talk to anyone from overseas and they all say the same thing “Houses here (in NZ) are pretty plain/boring”. A neutral palette with furniture for personality may suit resale but it’s bland and impersonal. Colour allows for personal expression. You want to wake up and feel a sense of you/your family. You want friends and family to enter your home and think yes this is you – I see it, feel it, I hear it. Not “oh how lovely and neutral, I could imagine anyone living here.”
Colour also influences perceptions of size. Monochromy allows the exact evaluation of an object (building) – see Shug Life below. Polychromy minimises volume ie the perception of large or monolithic facades (Le Corbusier, 1925). Contextual colour minimises the visual impact or ‘eyesore’ factor of a building. Missuse of colour and contrast can be very unsettling, creating visual clutter and complexity. The way to avoid visual noise and create a calm space is by using similar tones and reducing or minimising the amount of strong contrast. These tones don’t have to be neutral or white. White’s can enhance the simplicity and brightness of a space but they can also create a stark, sterile environment if not applied correctly.
Colour ‘humanises’ and encourages engagement. At ata human experience is at the heart of our design process. Given colour drives the experience of a space it is considered very early on in the concept stage. Understanding the environment, context, and the inhabitants of a space is crucial. Individual differences such as age, gender, and culture all influence our responses to the colour of our environment. Knowing who our clients are is primary. We consider the impact of colour on the external facade – in the selection of materials, joinery, and planting and internally via materials, paint, furniture, plants, window placement and accents (tapware, tiles, door hardware etc). Colour can be used to control or reinforce the sensory experience of space and architecture. Blank canvas spaces and windows give visual respite minimising visual noise (Zena O’Connor, PhD).
As you can see colour is intimately linked to psychological stimuli and should be used in conjunction with volume and the shape of each project. Colour is therefore an integral element in architecture; it is not only important aesthetically, but it also has great psycho-sensory importance (archdaily). It is not merely a decorative afterthought. Given the importance of colour to the experience of the finished space it’s like an actual dagger to the heart when you arrive on site and find colours or materials have been changed on a whim. Architects / Designers you feel me?