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Colour and (Living) Architecture

Colour and (Living) Architecture

10.04.19

Exploring the use of varying colour palettes in Living Architecture houses

Colour and (Living) Architecture

The pioneering Modern architect Adolf Loos had much to say on the subject of colour in architecture. In his 1898 essay The Principle of Cladding, he set out a series of strictures for the use of interior colour and decoration. Amongst other rules he declared that “Wood must be painted any colour except one: the colour of wood.”

How do we think of colour in the houses we commission? The most obvious place to start would be A House For Essex where Grayson Perry’s vivid tapestries meet FAT’s equally intense colour palette. Charles Holland, the architect of the house, has often cited Loos as an influence on the house’s colour scheme which builds in intensity as you move through it. The entrance hall is mostly white but with buttercup yellow skirting’s that give a strong hint of the riot of colour to come. Bottle green is added to the mix in the kitchen/dining room along with the red window and door frames. The living room cum chapel then bursts into view: more yellow, five different shades of red and pink detailing. And that is without mentioning the art which throbs with the intense shades of the complex composition of Grayson’s pots and tapestries.

Where A House for Essex is full of colour (see also the vivid paintings and furniture at Balancing Barn) our other houses use it with a more selective, subtle power. John Pawson’s Life House in Wales flips between black and white, dark and light through the use of two colours of brick. The colour here is intrinsic to the material and is used to demarcate zones of occupation and create ambiguities of inside and outside. The exterior is completely dark; a rich black brick creates a strong sense of enclosure, while the pale brick creates a bright warmth to the interior.  The dark brickwork makes a reappearance inside too, shifting the tone and atmosphere. One further subtlety being the ‘wet’ areas where the white brick is glazed to become smooth and inert.

In Secular Retreat, colour comes in the deep shades of the upholstery and floor rugs. Offset against the rugged rammed concrete, these moments of luxury and comfort appear even more vivid. Deep jade green rugs, plum coloured armchairs and the varied and honeyed tones of the joinery seem all the more intense given the coarse background of concrete. And then there is the hillside beyond, with the colours of nature that are ever present when inside the house.

Architects can often seem uncomfortable with colour: the black polo-necked caricatures of the movies. But, like Adolf Loos, the work of Living Architecture’s creators is rich in colour in innovative and unexpected ways.

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