Out of the many visual elements of design, color is the most impactful yet effortless amongst all. The first impression that an area leaves on a visitors’ mind is certainly not the structures or the people, in and around it; rather it is the aesthetic of the place. Having said that, what covers aesthetic for a layman are not the architectural elements of the buildings – as for an architect, but it is simply the visually pleasing elements and its overall appearance, which catches and calms the eyes. Using color in building facades is one such way of generating that visual comfort and also drawing attention of the visitor at the same time. The colors of facades not only highlight the buildings and increase interest for the viewers in fact; using colors visually activate an area. Also, the choice and usage of colors for facades may vary according to the contextual setting, however the colors assuredly change the visual perception of all buildings in or around an area.
There are famous examples of colored building facades, in residential as well as commercial areas of cities, around the world. One of the most known neighborhoods with a range of multicolored Victorian facades is Portobello road in London. It has evolved to be one of the ‘must-see’ areas of London today and the simple contribution of color in this case, cannot be ignored. The color resulted in creating a distinct identity for the area and hence increasing its popularity massively.

A row of Portobello houses (Source: 2019 Portobello Road Market)

Another example that is slightly different from the above, of the use of color on building facades is MUSAC, Leon’s art museum in Spain. The colors on the building façade reflect the local traditional architecture of the area and have provided a deep connection to its surrounding.
The MUSAC building in Spain (Source: worldbuild365)

Not only the use of color in building facades is always done for the most obvious reasons as discussed above, but also for much greater objectives such as finding solution to a city’s housing crisis. In Johannesburg, numerous abandoned heritage buildings were brought to attention by coloring the facades pink. It was a call from a group of artists to the African government for utilising the historic core of the city, in order to meet the current housing demands. Although as far as the outcome is concerned, this case is still debatable. However it suggests that the use of color can have severe impacts on the buildings and its surroundings and could be a starting point for some extremely important conversations.
A building on Rissik Street in Johannesburg (Source: Ryan Lenora Brown)

Another great example of the use of color as a lucrative tool for generating revenue, is an Art project called ‘Return to Rio’ in Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro. It aimed at creating visually pleasing facades in a neighborhood, by painting them in different colors and patterns. The project not only acted as an economic stimulator for the area but also uplifted the identity of the neighborhood.
The artists in front of the Santa Marta intervention (Source: City Lab)

Hence the use of color, specifically on building facades is much more than its use as decoration. Color is an integral element in the architectural environment as it is in the natural environment. It is an important tool that is not only used for visual effects but also to serve deeper purposes. To put it simply, color is making the world around us better, in every small and bigger ways.

Vidushi Agarwal

Vidushi Agarwal, is an Architect and Urban Designer with a keen interest in urban regeneration and sustainable development. She believes research is as important as the design and is focused on being a part of major research projects in the future. She also loves to be curious about everything and exploring new places.

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