Colour Philosophy in Architecture and Design – Part II (Take a walk on the green side) …

Continuing on from Part I, where we introduced nature’s most prominent colour: green. It’s impossible to be tricked into believing that all greens have the same qualities. One can’t talk about colour philosophy without addressing the impact of the lightness and darkness of colours – whereby proportionality is critical. For example, if two greens are being used alongside each other and both are of the same value vis-à-vis light-dark qualities, then visually they hold the same weight, which is often bland and uninteresting. Visual interest can only be achieved when there is a broad range of light/dark intensity of colours being utilized, and using this philosophy, Le Corbusier’s colour theory system – his Architectural Polychromy - is an absolute masterpiece – offering 63 colours (of which there are 9 greens) which are all naturally harmonious and eminently architectural.

There is a plethora of approaches to analyzing colour: taking into account historical, cultural and social interpretations of colour are some of the more interesting places to learn about colour philosophy. Any design professional who incorporates colour into their designs will acknowledge that persuasion is key – in fact it can be as high as 90% of the total design: advising the client to do the right thing, making an informed decision.

When we consider branding, green is symbolic with regard to the environment and using the right tone of green will create an optical vibration. Many countries consider green to be lucky – think shamrocks, the colour of money in many countries, and green as in “go” on traffic lights, Starbucks, Spotify, WhatsApp, the list goes on. Ranging from soft light greens, to chartreuse, to mossy greens to the deepest of evergreens, all echo holistic and harmonious living when introduced into projects and Le Corbusier recognized the linkages between green and its harmonious qualities back in the 1920s.

Probably Le Corbusier’s most iconic design is Villa Savoye, in Poissy, France; heralded one of the most important houses of the 20th Century, it was here that Le Corbusier initially applied his “Five Points of a New Architecture”. Le Corbusier made extremely clever use of green at Villa Savoye: on the ground floor (South and East Aspects) he painted the curved retractable garage doors and adjacent walls in 32040 vert anglais, giving the allusion of the villa floating above the ground, not detracting from the surrounding landscape. It must have been quite a spectacular sight to have arrived at the villa in a chauffeur-driven limousine, approaching the Villa, seeing this “floating” masterpiece, then being part of the design itself as the car drove around and then under the villa, between the pilotis and the building itself. The guest would have been dropped at the curved glass entrance, and the chauffeur would have continued driving on an arc and parked the car under the villa, whereupon the green retractable doors would have been closed, concealing the vehicle, just like magic.

Le Corbusier was adamant that he didn’t want to disrupt the surrounding nature. The inclusion of roof terraces, was a clever gesture to replace the greenery which was displaced by the building’s footprint, ie creating a green space in the sky, and echoing the 32040 vert anglais used on the ground floor. Another magical feature of the roof terrace which illustrates Le Corbusier’s love of nature is at the top of the ramp to the terrace there is an unglazed window frame through which one can admire the beauty of the natural environment.

Le Corbusier was no doubt a pioneer in the biophilic design movement. The fact that nine shades of green are included in the 63 architectural colours is no coincidence: based on nature, all colours are naturally harmonious and can be painlessly combined with any other colour from the architectural polychromy.

“Colour is … an incredibly effective triggering tool. Colour is a factor of our existence”. Le Corbusier

Every colour has some negative connotations: for green these are of illness, poison or decay; relating primarily to duller greens, such as olives. Surrounding oneself with muddy greens may reflect negative aspects of one’s personality. Many South American countries believe that green symbolizes death, whereas in many African countries they have green in their national flags – representing the abundant nature wealth of the continent, representing the ‘motherland’. Globally, with the universal popularity of the green, recycling and organic movements, green has undergone a massive renaissance: there’s something so rejuvenating about green – it’s energy, it’s relationship with new life – it’s just like nature’s medicine.

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Very interesting this articule,Le Corbusier knew very well using colors.

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