The use of colour in architecture

The use of colour in architecture

Benefiting from an abundance of new, exciting materials that pave the way for innovative design, contemporary architecture is particularly fascinating when it comes to the use of colour.

Indeed, in recent decades, advancements in materials have given architects a much wider colour palette to choose from. One of the easiest areas to spot this in is metal, which until recently offered architects little in the way of colour choice – particularly if longevity was also desired. Now, technologies such as extrusion and powder coating have made the market explode in kaleidoscopic hues.

This wider choice is having exciting repercussions when it comes to design. Most crucially, more projects are viewing colour as a key component of design, as opposed to a finishing touch. For the architect, colour is becoming another tool with which to carve out the correct ambience of a building, whether it is used simply for dramatic effect, or for something deeper, such as forging ties with local culture or altering perceptions of a building’s form.

Here are some of the most interesting examples of the use of colour in contemporary architecture.

Eskenazi Hospital and Health Campus (USA)

Colourful architecture


Colour in architecture


Colourful architecture


Colourful architecture

Images courtesy of Pepper Construction

The facade of this modern healthcare and research facility in Indianapolis creates an impressive colour experience for visitors and passers-by. Composed of some 7,000 angled metal panels, this facade actually comprises a different colour depending on the viewpoint of the observer.

It creates this effect by linking together and angling metal panels, which means that onlookers will see either a yellow or charcoal-coloured facade, depending on where they are standing. However, this particular experiment with colour is by no means static. As the position of the observer changes, so does the colour; and indeed, they will perceive the shift in colour differently depending on their pace of motion. Motorists will see the hues shift rapidly, while approaching pedestrians while perceive a gradual alteration.

This project not only showcases the greater colour versatility now offered by metal, but is also indicative of its wider objectives. “Eskenazi Hospital and Health Campus not only provided an economic stimulus to our region, but its modern design, sustainable engineering, and commitment to public art and public space make a great statement about the values of our community,” stated Michael Huber, president and CEO of Indy Chamber.

MUSAC (Spain)


Colourful architecture

Photo: Jose Manuel Izquierdo Galiot, via Flickr CC Licence 2.0

Providing a wonderful and very different example of the use of colour in contemporary architecture is MUSAC, Leon’s art museum. Its stunning facade is made of multicoloured glass panels, which are inspired by traditional local architecture.

Indeed, while in an undeniably modern setting, these panels are also distinctly reminiscent of Leon cathedral, giving this new building ties to the location’s older architecture. It was designed by architecture firm Mansilla+Tunon, and is an example of how colour can be used not only to arresting effect, but also to achieve greater depth in a building’s overall ambience and significance.

Contrasting the colours of the facade is the white concrete interior, which was designed to draw parallels between common elements of architecture and art.

East Wing of Berlin Natural History Museum (Germany)

Beek100 via Wiki Commons

Christain Richters, via Wiki Commons

This next example eschews bright colours in favour of something more fitting with its existing surroundings. Designed by Diener & Diener, the East Wing of the Natural History Museum in Berlin in a triumph. This part of the building was largely destroyed in World War II, when bombs caused the roof, interior and significant portions of the exterior wall to collapse into the basement.

In the mid-1990s, Diener & Diener won a competition to redesign the space. Now, the new portion stands as almost as a replica of the walls of the museum left standing; however, its pale grey hues highlight that it isn’t part of the original building, and gives this new section an almost ghostly feel that hints at the horrors of the past.

In addition to this perceptive use of colour, the architects created moulds of the existing walls and used these to create the new walls, meaning their imperfections and unique characteristics would be carried through despite differences in colour and materials, creating a simultaneous sense of cohesion and ‘otherness’.



Cover image – Jose Manuel Izquierdo Galiot, via Flickr CC Licence 2.0