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A@W Newsletter

The impact of colour in architecture and design

28 October 2021

French 20th century painter and illustrator Pierre Bonnard’s insistence that “Colour does not only add a pleasant quality to design, it reinforces it”. still rings true now more than ever. The use of colour today is an ever-more apparent element in the world of architecture and design as exemplified by numerous projects from around the world. 

 

Since Man was first able to decipher one hue from another, different colours have been an integral part of our lives. Our perception of colour contributed to our early survival as we were, as a species, better able to recognise red for danger and yellow rather than green or blue.

 

However colour is also highly subjective, relative to our cultural and social identity. There are other significant factors such as the spatial context. Geography plays a part too from the colourful architecture of Mexico City to the subdued churches of white oak in Nordic countries or the vibrantly industrial sceneries of French coastal cities.

 

 

The new Popl Burger restaurant in Copenhagen, designed by Spacon & X, uses pops of colour throughout to enhance the atmosphere of the restaurant.

 

Dyrup Carlsen, Copenhagen-based architect and co-founder of design and architecture studio Spacon & X Nikoline says: ”I find that the potential of colour in architecture is under-appreciated, particularly in Scandinavia. Colour can have a profound impact on our perception of spaces. We often seek to pursue colour to communicate a projects’ values, be it the DNA of a workplace, the vibe in a restaurant or creating a welcoming feeling in a hotel.”

 


© Bjørn Bertheussen

 

 

Vibrant blue and yellow hues are employed throughout the office of the Danish Safety Technology Authority, designed by Spacon & X, echoing the institution’s ethos of safety and wellbeing

 

She adds, “As humans, we find ourselves demanding more from the spaces that we inhabit. We’re through with using standard, white cube options, working instead from a point of interest for each material and surface.”

 


© Spacon & X

 

 

An installation by Margrethe Odgaard in Danish textile company Kvadrat’s showroom, which uses colour as a means of communication for the company’s design values. 

 

Danish textile and colour designer, Margrethe Odgaard is known for approaching colour in terms of its impact on people’s sensory perception. She has worked with manufacturers such as Kvadrat, Muuto and HAY and institutions including Designmuseo Helsinki and Willumsens Museum in Denmark. She says: “To me, it’s not as much a question of the colour itself but how the light meets the surface upon which the colour sits, how it is absorbed, how it is reflected and, ultimately, the energy that it reaches our eyes, how colour can nourish us and our senses.”

 


© Kvadrat



A series of curtain compositions by Margrethe Odgaard, studying the interaction of multiple colours across a patchwork-like layout. These were created with Odgaard’s Panorama textile for Kvadrat at Munkeruphus Museum in Denmark.


Odgaard argues that one must approach colour with a decisive attitude: “You have to identify your intention with the colour. What emotional and perceptual effect do you want for it to evoke? Which context will it live and work in?”



© David Stjernholm



The Popsicle Index: Studies in Sensory Perception (2018) by Margrethe Odgaard. 

 

As with many things in life, context is everything when it comes to working with colour, from the walls of a restaurant, the shade of a textile curtain or the hue of a chair.



© Andreas Omvik


Originally written by Nikolaj Hansson [with additional translation by Helen Parton]

The impact of colour in architecture and design
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