Colour to be confirmed

/ Ana Teresa Cristobal / Arts & Culture

When we describe our projects we use drawings and specifications. Specifications describe what can’t be shown on drawings. They deal with materials, their expected performance and fixing, whilst the drawings describe the location shape and distribution of these materials. A common statement in these specifications is - colour to be confirmed.

Interesting isn’t it, that the most comprehensible aspect of what we do, the colour of our buildings and what we make them of, is possibly the least defined in our project delivery. And that in the light of the abundance of research into the theory and psychology of colour. It must have something to do with colour not being a life or death issue, whether something is red or green is a matter of taste, not the integrity of a material and whether it stands up or not or falls down.

That sentiment that colour was important has deep roots in our history. The early ‘Temperament Rose’ was an attempt to associate colour with personal temperament and the likelihood that one might have leadership or thinking qualities. Later examples such as the Munsel Chart went a step further and suggested colour preferences might evoke a broad range of attributes from dandy to elegant, gorgeous to clear, romantic and dynamic.

These early examples perhaps reinforce regional stereotypes, pink for girls blue for boys, white for weddings or is it black if you are from Portugal or red if in China? We take for granted the White House but what if it had been black or yellow?

Less stereotypical were examples picked out from our colleagues collective experience chart, from the discovery of painted ‘clay mixed’ colours on some excavated Orkney stones, the mineral origins of Egyptian colour, the Roman terrazzo colours, and more up to date, Barragan’s Mexican palate, Gaudi’s tonal variations, Cottiers stained glass colours, and recently Regio Emilio’s tones for schools.

We were also reminded of the current creative preference for white – the perfect blank canvas. Ever the polemicist, Le Corbusier originally advocated white. He even invented the ‘Law of Ripolin’ (a paint company) – the desirability of a ‘coat of whitewash’. Not much to confirm there then!

Colour interior