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Paint the Block

How colour affects our physiology and psychology

Our reaction to colour is instinctual. Seeing specific colours affects our physiology and psychology.

Our dull grey cities are bad for our health and studies show that the lack of colour on our street and in our offices has reduced our cognitive ability, reduced our short-term memory and even damaged our emotional capacity. Over time the colour palette of our commercial buildings has changed from red-brick to steel and glass and most recently to white.

This lack of stimulus has seeped into our office environments, where, in an effort to seek conformity we usually opt for a bland, easy to maintain colour palette. The latest trend of white minimalism is favoured hoping to project purity and efficiency. But this can have the opposite effect sometimes exhibiting emptiness and rigidity.

Colour plays a huge role in how we understand the world around us. At all points of the colour wheel, our mind is stimulated associating the colour with respective emotions and approaches. This is beginning to be harnessed inside the workspace, with the introduction of plants and feature pieces of furniture. We can be taken much further extending the envelope of colour to wrap around the outside of the building as well. This can not only be used as a marketing tool but it also stimulates workspace dwellers before they even enter the building.


Splash of colour by Gaudi


A significant part of an architect’s role is to consider colour palettes and tones when designing a space. Harnessing the colours of the landscape around them either mimicking the colours of nature to embed the spaces into their surroundings or contrasting the colours to create striking spaces that stand out from it.

This experimentation and excitement surrounding colour however, at times falls victim to the fast-paced functionalism of the architectural industry.

There is hope though, as architects rediscover our tradition of collaborating with artists and crafts people, we can create buildings which stimulate our senses and brighten up our streets. Whether through the subtle use of colour accents to the edges of a building or the colourful mosaics of Gaudi or Bofill’s surreal monochromatic use of pink, we can make buildings emotive extensions of ourselves, creating a togetherness in the city.


Bofill’s surreal pink blocks contrast with the surrounding landscape.

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