Guide Architecture in Detail: Colors

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Meanwhile, Jacques Ferrier transformed the central administration building of Rouen into a three-dimensional impressionist painting by means of coloured glass louvres mounted at different angles.

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For our April issue, Frank Kaltenbach has compiled these and other outstanding examples that bring together architecture and colour through a variety of concepts and materials. Jobs Shop News Suche. Print article. Kurze Werbepause. This magazine. Colour and Texture Content. The great number of studies comparing human subjects worldwide, such as men to women, children to adults, laymen to architects, and even monkeys to humans show that color is an international visual language understood by all.

The impression of a color and the message it conveys is of utmost importance in creating the psychological mood or ambiance that supports the function of a space. A classroom has a different function than a hospital patient room; an office space is not a production line, etc.

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To mention a few examples concerning colors and what they convey: Pastel yellow gives the impression of sunny, friendly, soft. The message in the interior space is stimulating, brightness, coziness. Red is arousing, passionate, provocative, fiery, aggressive. The message in the interior is aggressive, advancing, dominant. Green is balancing, natural, calm with the message of simplicity, security, balance.

White expresses open, vast, neutral, sterile. The message being purity, sterile, emptiness, indecisiveness. Obviously this is a very small example since all colors change their character when modified in their lightness factor light to dark and saturation. A part of neuropsychological investigation is to discover how the brain processes and reacts to sensory information coming from the external world and how this affects humans.


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Especially important for the color specifier is the research concerning the presentation of two perceptual extremes within the environment known as sensory deprivation and sensory overload, also termed monotony or understimulation and overstimulation. Involved is the reticular formation which always seeks to maintain a level of normalcy, but it can and will malfunction. Stress research has shown that states of sensory monotony or overstimulation can trigger dysfunction in the organism.

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Monotony sends weak environmental signals and overstimulation confusing signals. The basic signs of an understimulated environment are weak intensities of colors, monochromatic harmonies, achromatic colors, weak or monotonous color contrasts. Overstimulation results in changes in the rate of breathing, increase of pulse rate and blood pressure; increase in muscle tension; psychiatric reactions of varying types; and probably compounded medical consequences, such as increased susceptibility to infection, coronary disease and ulcers.

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Stress research has shown these symptoms as typical effects on persons who have been subjected to overstimulation. The basic signs of an overstimulated environment is strong color intensity highly saturated , color harmonies that are too complex or incongruous, contrasts that present themselves too strong, too many complex visual color patterns. In a research paper by Dr.

UNDERSTANDING COLOURS - The power of colours in archviz

Psychosomatic medicine emphasizes that physical disorders may originate through psychological factors, be aggravated by them and vice versa. It is common knowledge that stress may cause headaches, anxiety makes the heart beat faster, and anger and distress may affect the stomach, to name the most common occurrences. Of course the list includes high blood pressure, heart palpitations, migraine headaches, eczema, impotence, and so forth.

Scientific research has also established the link to PNI — Psycho-Neuro-Immunology which clearly shows that networks of nerve fibers and molecular bridges connect the psyche and the body with each other and that emotions penetrate completely into the cells of the organism. Probably one of the least known factors of appropriate color specification is its role in safeguarding visual efficiency and comfort. The eye's adaptation process involves the immediate reaction of the eye to changes in the degree of illumination.

Lower light reflectance causes the pupil to dilate, and the reverse is true for higher reflectance.

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The eye sees luminous density and not the intensity of illuminance. Luminous density is what the eyes receive when light is reflected from a surface floors, walls, furniture. If the differences between the luminous densities within view are too great, the iris muscle is strained due to constant adjustment, thus causing eye fatigue. Studies have shown that appropriate differences in luminous density can prevent eye fatigue and raise visual acuity, and thus also productivity. The colors of surfaces absorb and reflect a certain amount of light.

These measurements are referred to as light reflection values.

Architecture detail of school in bright colors.

The international norms are the light reflection ratio within a space. However, visual ergonomists are not color designers. The motivating force being an absence of competent training in the professions that demand the use of color. Without doubt, the assumption that color is no more than decoration and color specifications can be satisfied or solved by personal interpretations or the following of color trends and design idioms in current fashion is absolutely false and counterproductive. Humane design places the human being in the center of its concern and purpose.

Therefore, it should show interest in human welfare and dignity. Is this a deficiency in education or a deficiency in practice?


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I'm not sure - but I would hazard a guess that it is both. Especially now that much work occurs inside of closed spaces at a desk for eight hours or more a day, this kind of information may become more and more important to safeguard the health of employees and prevent companies from being sued for making damaging or unsafe work spaces.