The Initiative for Green Habitats represents a long term commitment towards providing solutions for the creation of Sustainable Built Environments. This blog attempts to provide an insight to our views, commentaries on our work, ideas that we are working on, and provoke thought where there are more questions than answers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Colour and building traditions

Sometimes you look at a building and you have no idea why a particular colour or colour scheme was used.
What is the significance of colour choices for your building? Does colour define you? Does it slot you as belonging to a certain community? When you look at traditional architecture, specifically when you go back in time, colour seemed to occupy a very important place in both breathing life into the architecture and in assisting in one identifying the building that belonged to a particular region, or, a particular people... sometime pin-pointing the particular sub-group or family.
Colours also seemed to have a deeper significance... for example door frames and thresholds were painted a specific colour.... maybe with an intention to sanctify the entry. A quasi religious significance was given to the colours used and as a result, other colours that were reflective of a community found place on the built. At the least, the built became an extension of the people, or, a mark of the people inhabiting them.
Like many other aspects of building traditions, we seem to have lost our bearings a bit on the role and irrelevance of colour in our buildings. Like the forms imported (sorry, influencing) our architecture seem to have shed any connects with the traditions of colour and built form. Today's buildings seem to follow a borrowed identity and design philosophy, not one that has come about as a process of gradual change due to factors influencing culture, politics and people. We seem to have been shocked into this new identity, resulting in an amnesia of sorts when it comes to referencing our traditions and built heritage.
Maybe how history has been written has contributed to this. Our appreciation of our architectural remnants and ruins are primarily done in their present form, and not from a knowledge of what was. It is almost as if we are referencing only the skeletal remains, without understanding the flesh, skin and personality. When one designs a courtyard, the starting point is an empty court, which remains empty during the design process. How does that court change due to people? When we populate these spaces, and breathe life into its occupants, then it is but natural for that to reflect on the personality of the place itself.
Today, modern architectural principles still influence us (in this part of the world), to limit the colour to be an honest extension of the colour of the material used. So wood looks like wood, and brick has to look like brick and so on. While one can relate that, what happens to colour as colour itself?
This is not as much a case for the use of colour, but us to develop an understanding of its relevance as a part of the built.

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