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Colour and Architecture

Colours and their perceptions are responsible for a series of conscious and unconscious stimuli in our psychic-spatial relationship.

Despite its presence and its variations, present everywhere, have you ever wondered what its role is in architecture? As well as the very constructive elements that make up the architectural object, the application of colours on surfaces also influences the user experience in the space.

According to Israel Pedrosa, "the colourful sensation is produced by the nuances of light refracted or reflected by the material. Commonly, the word colour is used to designate those nuances that function as stimuli in the chromatic sensation."


Edificio la Muralla, Ricardo Bofill

Describing the relationship of colors under the different aspects that govern them, or even the succession of existing studies, is as complex as it is extensive. Color can be associated with Psychology, Symbolism or Mysticism; it gets different meanings depending on the artistic, historical or even the culture period; it changes when faced with the light; among many other topics. This article does not aim to address technical aspects about colors or concepts studied by critics, however, it seeks to reflect on the relationship between color and architecture.

Let's take as an example some consecrated names from the history of architecture. While in the work of Luis Barragán color evidences spatial purity as an evocative element of emotions, Siza Vieira adheres to the acromatism of surfaces. While Lina Bo Bardi uses red in some architectural elements, Legorreta adopts lush colors from Mexican culture.


Edificio la Muralla, Ricardo Bofill

Color can evidence a certain volume or constructive detail or visually mimic certain aspects of the space. It can also lead to a set of emotions or visual effects.

If we establish an environment with neutral walls, floors and ceilings, applying certain colors on different surfaces will show different visual effects. For example, if we apply a darker shade to the ceiling, the feeling of a lower space is generated; if we apply color to the central wall of space, the idea of a certain "spatial shortening" is visually created; whereas, if applied to all walls, the perception of a longer space than it actually is occurs.


Vivienda unifamiliar, Luís Barragán

If only the side walls of the space are painted, the idea of narrowing is denoted; conversely, by painting the central wall and ceiling in the same shade, the atmosphere seems to expand. If you want to lower the height of the space or put the focus at the height of the observer's gaze, it is enough to paint all the surfaces at half height, putting the darkest tones on the upper surfaces. But colors do not exist without the presence of light. As Israel Pedrosa says in his book Da Cor à Cor Nonexistent, "color has no material existence: it is only the sensation produced by certain nervous organizations under the action of light. More precisely, it is the action provoked by the action of light on the organ of vision." [2] Color is intimately linked to psychological stimuli and can be worked on in conjunction with the volumes and form of each project.

Source: plataforma de arquitectura, written by Matheus Pereira May 17, 2018

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