Special Issue of Architecture Theory Review: theories of colour (Dec 2013)

Website: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ratr
Deadline for submissions: 31 December 2013

In 1927, Bruno Taut built himself a house in the south of Berlin. The house was a richly coloured affair, with a range of colours for walls and furniture. Those areas of the house that received indirect light were decked out with the brightest tones. The ceiling of the living room was a radiant red, designed to act as an inverse to the green of nearby meadows. Even the radiator and its pipes were set out from the wall and distinguished from their surroundings with contrasting colours. This polychromatic exuberance was typical of Taut, and of early modernism.

In response to Taut’s love of colour, Le Corbusier is said to have exclaimed “My God! Taut is colour blind!”. This was not an expression of chromophobia, but doctrinal difference. Corbusier had developed his own theory of polychromatic architecture via his experiments in Purist painting. For both Taut and Corbusier, colour was a central mediator between the individual and the architectural spaces that they inhabited.

Contrary to high-modernism’s monochrome reputation, colour was an integral concern for architects and architecture theorists in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Furthermore, colour theory has a pedigree that extends from the Renaissance, through the Enlightenment and early Romantic period. From Da Vinci through Palladio, Newton, Otto Runge, Goethe and Schopenhauer, colour has been subject to systematic investigation, and its practical applications have been based upon explicit philosophical and aesthetic theories.

It is perhaps our own period, apparently awash in colour, that is unique in its lack of systematic consideration of colour theory. Ubiquitous, but largely arbitrary, the very freedom to produce almost every conceivable colour has produced an indifference regarding the specific colour used; contemporary colour is a technicolour yawn. This anomie* extends to the Academy, where colour theory has become a topic chiefly of historical interest. Whereas questions of materiality have retained their legitimacy in architecture education, colour is held to be in every sense a superficial concern.

This issue of the Architecture Theory Review is intended to be a manifesto against our amnesia regarding colour, and a primer for future colour theories.

How have colour theories been applied in architecture, and what can we learn from the reception of these efforts? What significant reflections or controversies regarding the applied use of colour have until now been overlooked? What examples require (re)investigation? How do contemporary perspectives allow us to recontextualise these case studies?

We seek papers on philosophical colour theory and aesthetics. Contemporary colour theory is, in some surprising respects, a hybrid of both Newton’s and Goethe’s considerations. However, Newton and Goethe are only two examples from an extraordinarily diverse history of theories and hypothesis. what is the history of colour education in architecture? How can this discussion be extended beyond the established touchstones?

Not all pigments are created equal. Consider writing a study of colours with an interesting historical arc. Indigo blue, cadmium red, whitewash, Baker-Miller pink, Perkin’s mauve, Switzer day-glo, and so on. Cadmium and lead have long since been dropped from mass paint production. What can we learn from case studies on the material production and cultural use of colours and pigments, their chemistry, consumption and reception?

As Humphrey McQueen has argued, the dissemination of Royal Jubilee colours in the Commonwealth was part of a conscious strategy to harness patriotic fashions in the service of British industry. Is there a political economy of colour in architecture? If so, what insights can be gained from investigating it?

Wavelengths are real, but the visible spectrum is a human affair. We are interested in the psychology and physiology of colour perception, with its ocular, spatial and emotional implications. Neuronal processing, perceptual space, patterning and theories of oppositional colours and fatigue are all relevant. What is the current content, and limits to, research into neuroaesthetics? What implications for architectural practice might be latent in this  research?

Neither RGB screens nor CMYK printing do more than loosely approximate the colour of the world around us, leading to the curiosity that many standardised colours—such as international orange, the colour of the Golden Gate Bridge—cannot be accurately photographically reproduced. What are the implications of this? We seek studies of media history, on the reproduction and transmission of color, and their implications for the dissemination of architectural ideas and norms.

Under statutes relating to trade dress, colour can be protected as a form of intellectual property. What is the influence of propriety colour scales, and colour as an element in branding on contemporary architectural practice?

Resolve our problems, or present us with new ones. The editors look forward to a substantial compendium that brings historical colour to contemporary research and can be used as a primer in future architectural practice.

The deadline for submissions is 31st December 2013

Please submit manuscripts via the journal’s website: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ratr

Manuscript submission guidelines are available at:  http://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?journalCode=ratr20&page=instructions

Queries regarding the CFP and queries regarding the deadline should be directed to Adam Jasper (adamjasper@gmail.com)

Sean Anderson
Jennifer Ferng
Adam Jasper


About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is http://deseng.ryerson.ca/~fil.

One Response to Special Issue of Architecture Theory Review: theories of colour (Dec 2013)

  1. Pingback: Special Issue of Architecture Theory Review: theories of colour (Dec 2013) | Papers Wanted - Call for Papers, Journals and Conferences

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