It’s tempting to think of color as an afterthought when designing a new building, like a coat of paint that can just be slapped-on after everything is said and done. But in reality, new studies are finding that the hues we choose to work into our architecture designs can actually have a big impact on the way we experience the space, and even on our long-term feelings.
It has to do with color psychology, and how our brains react to different environments for different reasons. An under-stimulated environment, for example is more appropriate for spaces of rest and relaxation, and may include softer, less intense tones as well as lower contrast. Residential spaces, waiting rooms, and any business looking to create a serene atmosphere are good examples. Over-stimulated environments on the other hand are those that make use of bright colors, high contrast, and a wide range of different details to see and appreciate. This end of the spectrum is used in areas that are meant to spur excitement and creativity, like theme parks, or offices of creatively-driven businesses like Google.
It’s clear that the color palettes in our favorite buildings can have a big impact on the way we think, feel, and work, but beyond that research shows that it can also have long term consequences on our physical and mental health. The list of stress-induced conditions that can be linked to environmental factors is long and includes everything from migraine headaches, to eczema, heart palpitations, and high blood pressure. And while striking the perfect balance between loud and quiet, bold and subdued is certainly a complex problem, we understand that the solution is linked to the building’s purpose and intended effect.
For some of the most up to date thought and research on the subject of color in architecture, take a look at the Saturated Space blog at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, where they examine the role of color in architecture in the past and present.