C o l o u r
COLOUR and ARCHITECTURE
Colour - an essential expressive component of architecture – often derives from the choice of building material and the way its exterior surface is treated. Applied as an additional layer, colour may be selected for its functional, aesthetic or symbolic value. During this talk we look at the ways in which locally available construction material and the specific climactic, cultural and historical conditions influence formation of colour palettes characteristic of certain places. We try to position Basel and its architecture within an overall geography of colour– we look at the stone varieties of the surrounding landscape, their natural colours and the various shades of the dark red paint that traditionally adorn Basel’s important buildings.
After a short survey of chromatic schemes typical of Basel’s baroque, classicist and historicist architecture, we address the use of colour in the 20thcentury. We look at symbolic significance of colours applied inside the Goetheanum, at the spare use of colour as a way to brighten up the uniform architecture of subsidized housing, and at modernist purism and the importance of the colour white. We present Le Corbusier’s theory of architectural polychromy and look at several of his buildings where colour plays an important role. In the last part of the talk we discuss recent interest of Swiss architects in the use of colour and the way they increasingly cooperate with visual artists. Finally, we look at several examples of contemporary architecture worldwide and try to decipher possible meanings conveyed by their forthright use of colour.
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