The potential of colour as an architectural design element - Le Corbusier's Architectural Polychromy
“Colour in architecture – a means as powerful as the ground plan and section. Or better: polychromy, a component of the ground plan and the section itself.”
– Le Corbusier –
Colour is undoubtedly a strong and important tool in interior design. The potential of colour was redrawn just at the beginning of the 20th century. The functions and tasks of colour design redefined. Le Corbusier is one of those who have given the paint in construction an essential function. 'Experience of space', a central aspect for many architects who are aware of the effect of colour in interior design and general architectural colour design. Thanks to these architects, the character and atmosphere of rooms take more and more importance and have an increasing central role to play. Many of the colour systems offered today also produce confusion from time to time. The colour decision is usually intuitively and subjectively pleasing. Whether as wall paint or material colour – the correct choice of colour in the construction results in perfect symbiosis with targeted effect in rooms, even entire buildings. The easiest way to perceive and transfer colours is to work with colour fans, which support the choice of a harmonious and suitable colour palette.
The Architectural Polychromy by Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier realised his Architectural Polychromy in 1930 in collaboration with the then Swiss wallpaper company Salubra. Within this framework, he created his impressive colour-keyboards, the Claviers de couleurs. The collections created with Salubra are among the most sought-after publications among architects and interior designers in colour design today. The wallpaper product represented by the colour collection was also a novelty. The wallpaper produced as a ready-made 'oil paint in rolls' was colourfast with a guaranteed shelf life of at least five years. Le Corbusier loved the balanced colours of nature. He built his Architectural Polychromy on an intelligent, artistic, emotional and passionate selection of pigments. The pigment colours express the original, the natural and the weighty and this is still true to this day. They are the result of Le Corbusier’s extensive experience as an architect, designer and artist. The colours chosen by Le Corbusier are harmonious in themselves and can be combined impressively in all variants and forms. What is essential, especially in architecture, because colours are rarely unique. Therefore, colours and their combination options are essential – especially for a colour concept for interior design and also the choice of colours in architecture. The entire Architectural Polychromy by Le Corbusier consists of 63 exquisite colours in two collections, respectively colour keyboards. These 63 colours form a coherent, aesthetic and vivid overall system. Le Corbusier's Architectural Polychromy is a masterpiece. The shades themselves were created by Le Corbusier in two colour collections in 1931 and 1959.
“Each of us, according to his own psychology, is controlled by one or more dominant colours. Each one goes to this or that harmony which his deep nature needs. It was a question of putting everyone in a position to recognize oneself by recognizing one's colours. This is the reason of the present Keyboards.”
- Le Corbusier -
Le Corbusier colours and colour concepts
In addition to architecture, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (Le Corbusier’s birthname) was also constantly involved with fine arts, painting, graphics, sculpture and tapestry, as well as colours and colour systems. The 63 colours of Le Corbusier and his Architectural Polychromy are chosen so that the desired colour effects are simple and negative effects can be ruled out from the outset. Le Corbusier's colour system conveys information – both visual and psychological – with every hue. The colours trigger emotional and physical reactions, influence human behaviour and vary the space. The choice of Le Corbusier’s colours is characterized by the following principles:
- Colour modifies the room.
Colours can change spaces through their effects.
- Colour classifies objects.
Colours can also make objects changeable.
- Colour has a physiological effect on us and reacts to our sensibilities.
Colour symbolises phenomena and triggers reactions, it influences our behaviour.
“Colour is… an incredibly effective triggering tool. Colour is a factor of our existence.”
- Le Corbusier -
The colour keyboards of Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier designed two colour collections for the wallpaper company Salubra, the Claviers de couleurs. The first colour collection from 1931 contained 43 shades in 14 series. The original coding of the Le Corbusier shades begins with "32xxx" – the series are marked by the last three digits. The "Clavier de couleurs" from 1959 completes the Architectural Polychromy with 20 colours to the total of 63 colours. These shades are called "4320x" – from 4320A to 4320W – and look more powerful and dynamic. Le Corbusier was not content with the choice of colours, which he based on his experience as an architect and painter. The shades are arranged so that a single hue or a combination of two or three colours can be isolated against two background hues with the use of 'glasses' in the colour keyboard. These glasses allow you to finalise the colour selection. Each of these cards contains a different colour mood, which should cause a certain spatial effect in the application. The combination of colourful and achromatic hues and different brightness values underlines the exceptional experience of Le Corbusier in architecture and as a painter. It forms the foundation of the entire Architectural Polychromy. But these colour keyboards also demand personal initiative. The atmospheric moods of each colour keyboard are defined by horizontal cross bands, which provide the descriptive name and character of the different keyboards by their meaning. With the colours being at the center, the colour designers and interior designers work as accent colours. The colour keyboards offer many suggestions. With only 63 colours in 9 colour groups, the Architectural Polychromy offers a unique tool for skilful, convincing and comprehensive architectural colour concepts.
- Salubra and sketches © FLC-ADAGP (Fondation Le Corbusier)
- Colour Keyboards and Architectural Polychromy Le Corbusier © Les Couleurs Suisse AG (LCS, Les Couleurs® Le Corbusier)
- Wandbekleidung / Tapete © Arte NV
- Staircase Weissenhof Siedlung Stuttgart © KEIMFARBEN GmbH
- Wallpaint © Karl Bubenhofer AG (KaBe Farben)
- Skirt Board © Döllken Profiles GmbH
- Radiator © Zehner Group Schweiz AG (Runtal)
- Carpet © Anker Gebr. Schoeller GmbH + Co. KG
- Bosse furniture © Dauphin HumanDesign® Group (Bosse)
- Kitchen © Leicht Küchen AG
- Window system © heroal - Johann Henkenjohann GmbH & Co. KG
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