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What colours are our towns?

A very promising tool  

colorimetric typesFor the town of Liege, Luan Nguyen found himself with four centroids of four different colour types, making it possible, at a glance, to give the colorimetric tendencies of a neighbourhood or a street. One was a grey-beige, one red-orange, one red brick and a light grey, each of these colours could be traced back to coordinates that had been quantified in a rigorously precise way. 

“We were then able to group each of the individuals of each neighbourhood according to their type and observe the dominant colours of these neighbourhoods and to make all kinds of observations, such as the objective characterization of the colorimetric homogeneity of a set of dwellings”. The neighbourhoods in the centre, for example, such as the rue des Anglais, point to a certain homogeneity, where, conversely, the four types are strongly represented on the boulevard Frankignoul, and show a strong heterogeneity in this neighbourhood. By complying with regulations in terms of materials authorised for the construction of social housing, the workers’ neighbourhoods show two types, red brick and red orange. “Evidently, these trends and these distributions of dominant colours for a type can be qualitatively deduced by the eye of the observer. The challenge here was to create a characterization tool making it possible to objectify and quantify them according to standardized criteria”.

“In addition to making it possible to identify the trends, the tool also makes it possible to capture a certain period”, explains the researcher. “That is the beauty of this method. Colour evolves over time and the same campaign carried out ten years previously would have created different types. It is therefore now very possible to imagine launching extensive campaigns over time on the same series of neighbourhoods and provide a database allowing for all sorts of analyses and comparisons. For example, to determine the impact of degradation due to deposits of atmospheric pollution on buildings, etc.” The possibilities for extending this research are many and also include the question of regulations. This is a problem that Luan Nguyen approaches with caution. “My fear with regard to the use of such a tool to impose colorimetric standards would be the creation of regulations that are too strict, which would result in a very rigid approach to colours in towns and cities and which would in turn become a constraint in terms of their evolution. It could happen that such and such a neighbourhood would be obliged to have a set of colours between such and such a degree and to prohibit any deviation from this. This would stifle creativity. Of course, the architect must take the environment into account in terms of integration. But integration does not imply repetition of what exists already. From an urban point of view, the most valuable and progressive thing would be to create a new event by relying on a contemporary language of architecture, to suggest a dialogue between the old and the new. This dialogue, when it is pertinent, becomes interesting and creates harmony. It is a question of shape and a question of colours”.   

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