Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Colour, Light and Shadow

In historical architecture the range of colours was limited and depended on available natural materials and paints. In new architecture the range of colours is much broader and harsh colours are feasible through the application of paints, enamels and anodized colouring (Couleur, 2001).

Colour, light and shadow have always had an impact on the appearance of buildings and structures and nowadays these factors may be used in new ways (Franck and Lepori, 2000). The choice of colours, in particular on external surfaces, was limited also by weathering requirements. Research has built up a vast knowledge on colours comprising the phenomena of brightness, lightness, blackness, greyness, whiteness, contrast, hue, shade, colour systems, combining and mixing of colours, colour harmonization and patterns, changing colour impressions and interaction between colour and people (Rihlama, 1999).

New chemical processes have created new types of paints and colours. Architects are willing to design the exterior or interior of buildings with new colour effects. To mention one realization only: the new Luxor Theatre in the Kop van Zuid district of Rotterdam has a leading red colour on the surfaces (architect: Bolles and Wilson AIT, 2001). Strong colours on buildings evince a similarity with the colouring of machines (cars, electrical appliances, furniture, etc.) and electrical cables. There are some architects who have opted to make certain colours their design trademark, e.g. Richard Meier with his steel panels enamelled to a white colour. Others, e.g. some Japanese architects, prefer the dominance of grey.

Lighting has grown into an important factor in architectural design, as can be seen from this statement from Le Corbusier (Sebestyen, 1998): ‘Architecture is the learned, correct and magnificent play of masses under light.’ Building with light has been applied ingeniously by architects and studied in great detail (Building with Light, 2001). Artificial illumination provides new visual effects. The New York LVMH tower designed by the Frenchman Christian de Portzamparc is illuminated nightly by a warm golden colour that gradually changes into a deep green. Colour may be applied over a surface or focussed on a spot or on several spots. If light is concentrated over several small points and applied to a dense pattern, it becomes a tool of articulation. This approach was applied by Renzo Piano at one façade of the KPN Telecom Office Tower in Rotterdam. Green lamp elements are set on this façade in a grid pattern. The lamps are individually switched on and off and are controlled by a computer program.
The new Dutch KPN Telecom building, Rotterdam.
Articulation may be realized through light spots.

Sebestyen, Gyula. 2003. New Architecture and Technology.

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