What colours are our towns?
The urban questions that architectural projects are constrained by are not only formal in nature. The colour of the chosen materials must also guarantee harmony between a new construction and its environment. The choice of colours is constrained by regulations that are sometimes very strict, and yet these regulations depend on tools that are largely open to subjective assessment. It sometimes seems easy to decide which colours should be dominant in a given location, but how can colours be classified in accordance with quantified criteria? Luan Nguyen, a young architectural engineer at the University of Liege has laid the foundations for a standardized and objective method(1) for characterizing the dominant color of a house, street, neighbourhood or city. Apart from compliance with regulations, a tool such as this one opens up a lot of possibilities for better understanding the extent of colour trends in an urban environment.
Regulations on subjective criteria
The construction of any dwelling is governed by a series of urban constraints the aim of which is to guarantee architectural harmony between a new construction and the environment. This set of regulations, which can be constraining to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the town or neighbourhood in question, very often imposes a specific colour palette, or a single colour. “The drawback of this is the indecision related to the characterization of this colour. When a new brick needs to be chosen before the construction of a new building, a specific shade of colour is imposed, such as red, brown or light grey. The terms used are quite vague, flowery and subject to personal interpretation. When we appear before the municipal officer, he may well consider that the brick we are showing him is a brownish colour while it may appear red to us”, says Luan Nguyen. This is further complicated by the fact that the colour of a brick will not be the same inside (due to the artificial lighting of the community house), as outside, and will vary even more according to the changing light at different times of the day. Finally, judging the exactness of the colour of an entire wall based on a single brick can only ever be approximate.
(1) NGUYN LN., TELLER J.,Color in the urban environment: A user-oriented protocol for chromatic characterization and the development of a parametric typology, Color Research and Application, 2016
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