Gradated buildings

I'm on a UK kick. You read one article, which leads you to another interesting topic, and then another one. All in all, London seems to have really embraced the gradated, colorful facade. It certainly breaks up the mass of a building and catches the eye!
image source
This is the Westminster Academy at the Naim Dangoor Centre, London. Drivers only have a few seconds to catch a glimpse of this school as they fly by along a busy highway. I would imagine this certainly catches their attention, right? "A key aim was to create a new civic landmark in which the pupils, staff and wider community felt a sense of pride and ownership and the boldly coloured exterior reflects the new sense of aspiration."(source) Very citrusy and fresh, I think.

image source
Or how about this one. Question: if you had to live in public housing, where would you rather live: here?
image source
...or here?
Wansey Street Housing is "a gap site between different typologies, the scheme reinterprets the terrace with 21st century requirements for density, flexibility, sustainability, ownership and security. The graduated, striped composition of the fa├žade - a progression from canary yellow to vermilion - links buff-coloured, London stock Victorian terrace and red brick former town hall." (source) I just love the color treatment!

Of course, part of what draws me to these buildings is the bright, saturated colors. But I don't think they would be nearly as successful if the bulk of the facades weren't broken up into smaller parts to break up the massive feeling of the structure. What do you think?

Significant Colour Exhibit

London seems to get all the great exhibits related to color. From May 8th to June 27th, the Aram Gallery will be exhibiting the show, "Significant Colour". The gallery website has a great little essay on the impact of color.
"an exhibition that will examine objects and artworks where colour is the first aspect that the viewer responds to, and the impact of colour, their most memorable feature."
I love that the exhibit delves into why people respond to color as they do. Case in point:
"A very intense and saturated blue can be much more energizing to the heart and mind than a dark, somber red, defying the common notion that blue calms and red stimulates. Colour is a powerful tool capable of affecting emotional well-being and intellectual motivation."(source)
images source
Anyone near London care to check it out for us and report back?

All things mini

I have a soft spot in my heart for miniatures. I don't know why, I've just always been drawn to tiny things- little dollhouse furniture, mini tools, baby corn... If it's small, you're certain to get an "aw" from me.
"Toys represent a microcosm of man’s world and dreams.
They exhibit fantasy, imagination, humor and love.
They are an invaluable record and expression of man's ingenious unsophisticated imagination.
-Alexander Girard
While in Santa Fe, we visited the Museum of International Folk Art, where they had the puppet exhibit I wrote about earlier. On permanent display at the museum was an ENORMOUS collection of toys, traditional arts, village scenes, textiles, and other art collected by Alexander and Susan Girard. And talk about a colorful exhibit!Even the ceiling beams have colorful accents. No sterile white gallery space here. They spent their lives traveling around the globe and collecting. And boy, did they ever collect. We're not talking a trinket here, and a little object there. On their honeymoon, they traveled to Mexico and returned with a carload of dolls, toy, and things for their home.

With 100,000 objects, entire village scenes can be represented. Dolls are not just displayed on the shelf with nice lighting- they are placed in a scene, creating little worlds.

There are over 100 countries represented in the exhibit which Girard designed personally to showcase the art objects. The amount of energy that must have gone into the creation of this exhibit is mind-boggling. Every piece is placed in an appropriate environment.

Astonishingly, only 10% of the full collection is on display- there's still 90% in storage somewhere! I say they need to put together a traveling exhibit so everyone can enjoy the collection.

Black in Design

Great little article in Stir magazine about black walls. Want to see more?

Santa Fe, the City Different

I'm finally getting around to catching up on my blog posts from our recent trip to New Mexico. Thanks for your patience! And now, a little from the "City Different":

The colors of New Mexico are fantastic. With the dusty pink earth and sage brush everywhere, the accent color of choice is blue, blue, blue. Look, they even accentuated the overpasses in turquoise: nice touch, don't you think?

image source
In historic downtown Santa Fe, there is a strict ordinance about the style and color of buildings.
image source
Desert earth tones are the only acceptable colors permitted for the Pueblo Revival and Territorial style buildings- it's quite a sight for those who have never seen Santa Fe.
This inlaid stone design gives you a pretty good idea of the palette. Beautiful soft adobe tones.
I thought this was funny- one writer said Santa Fe buildings looked like boxes that had been buttered and rolled in brown sugar.
Here's another view across the Plaza.
The ordinance does go to some rather ridiculous extremes. Even the ATM machine is appropriately dressed for downtown.

There's been a lot of debate over the restricted architectural styles allowed in the historic district. Some complain that it's too strict, and impedes development, while others argue it protects a very unique place, giving it the character that makes it so memorable.

What do you think? Thumbs up, or down?

Benjamin Moore Hue Awards

Every year, Benjamin Moore paints hosts a competition to honor the best use of color in architectural interior and exterior design. "Send us your best work using the power of color" is their call to action.
Can you believe that there is not one professional color consultant on their panel of judges? Ah, but we do have a cosmetics person (?!)

images source
There are four categories you can enter: residential exterior or interior, or contract exterior or interior. The awards always seem to go to the most use of color, instead of the best use of color. Let's get some quality pieces in there. Anyone have a project they might consider entering? I'd like to encourage anyone who has created a color design for a building or interior space to enter!

Deadline for submission is October 9th, 2009.

Chameleon and computer wizardry

I once tried persuading a chameleon to change colors, and the effect was much slower and more subtle. Ah, you gotta love video editing software- neat effect, don't you think?

via source

Wayang Puppetry Exhibit

While in Santa Fe, we went to the Museum of International Folk Art, which was amazing. We saw an exhibit of Indonesian shadow puppets called Wayang Kulit. The puppets (wayang) are flat leather creations elaborately decorated and perforated, casting the coolest shadows on canvas behind which the puppeteer sits. These performances are accompanied by an orchestra of drums and other Indonesian instruments, and lasts for about 9 straight hours, from dusk to dawn. People come and go, generally only staying for part of the show, whereas the puppeteer must perform the entire production from start to finish. Now that's stamina!

image source
Audience members can casually move back and forth between the front and back of the screen to see shadows or the actual puppets.

Used as a method of communication and social commentary, these shows pay homage to important ceremonies like weddings, elections, or holidays. Performances are usually based on classical Indian literature and incorporates contemporary issues into particular scenes. While not traditional, I thought this interpreted storyline was great. Yup, that's Saddam Hussein and George Bush.
image source
They are insanely intricate.

What fascinated me was the traditional used for creating specific characters of wayang. Each represents a particular identity, essence, and social status.

Some characters have round, wide eyes with big pupils, and others have thin slanted, downcast eyes. Turns out, the round eyed characters (called kasar) are "uncouth and poorly-mannered", whereas the thin eyed characters (halus) are "refined and gracious".

Standard colors are also used to portray personality traits and moods.
Human characters are gold, black, white or red
Gold=dignity and calmness
Black = strength, anger, inner maturity
White = youth, innocence, or nobility
Red = intense, violent anger, callous nasty personality, or boldness

Faces can also be painted pink, blue or green.
image source
Clown characters are particularly well-loved by audiences.

So, why don't the characters look anything like humans? According to one source, Islam forbids the depiction of the human form which is one of the reasons given for the highly stylized appearance of Javanese puppets compared to their counterparts elsewhere in South East Asia.

I find it fascinating to learn about symbolism in other countries and cultures. Doesn't it make life that much more rich and interesting?

*Unless noted, I took the photos

What color is your fitness approach?

Here's a fun(but complicated) little quiz, modeled on the Myers- Briggs personality type test, to assess how you approach exercising and fitness.
The 8 Colors of Fitness Quiz

The quiz works in conjunction with a book called (surprise, surprise!) "The 8 Colors of Fitness; a guide to help you discover your color-coded fitness personality and create an exercise program you'll never quit"

I'm intrigued. It seems sort of like a horoscope prediction, but I'm willing to give it a shot. As a rather easily- distracted person, I can hyper-focus on something for a short period of time, but rarely have the discipline to stick it out, long-term. I absolutely need an exercise buddy to accomplish my fitness goals. I wonder what it will say about me... let's all take it so we can compare notes.

but I don't really agree with the results, so if I take the test again, what will it say?
Hm, this is really hard. Similar to a polarity profile, the questions ask you to select one of two choices for each descriptive phrase about your approaches in life. I have trouble pigeon-holing myself into one option or the other.

images source
Well, I certainly wouldn't be caught dead in that 80's unitard, so it's a good thing I wasn't purple!

Did you find this difficult too?

Thanks to the the Color Association for the tip!

Google design tips

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the colors you find on Google pages are arbitrary, given their simple nature. You couldn't be farther from the truth.
For instance, how did they come up with a particular shade of blue to use for a specific toolbar?

A designer had picked out a blue that everyone on his team liked. But according to tests conducted by a product manager, users were more likely to click on the toolbar if it were a greener shade of blue. After this dilemma, Google tested 41 gradations of the competing blues to see which ones consumers might prefer. Just blue? I don't think so.

Another tidbit of interesting trivia. Ever wonder how Google came up with the minimalistic home page design? Thank Marimekko prints for that inspiration: bold blocks of saturated colors against a white background. This design is the brainchild of Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer web products (essentially Google's gatekeeper). Her aesthetic runs towards clean and simple, mirroring her childhood home and current penthouse in San Francisco which is painted in neutral hues and decorated with colorful pieces by Dale Chihuly, Andy Warhol, Sol LeWitt, and Roy Lichtenstein.

A lover of simplicity, coupled with vibrant color and a touch of that's my kind of designer!

It's elementary, my dear

Do you remember your elementary school? Maybe your children's school(s)? Were the buildings particularly interesting or colorful? I've been searching high and low for good examples of elementary schools that utilize colors successfully. Often, a designer will fall into the trap of assuming that bright, primary colors are the only solution for children. Are there 'out of the box' thinkers when it comes to sheltering children during their school days?

Here's a peak at a wild example.:

image source
This kindergarten is called the Adharshila Vatika Children Center, located in India. Essentially a remodel of an existing structure, the building uses basic identifiable shapes such as circles, triangles and rectangles to form the exterior.

image source
Color played an important part in defining the character of the building. The designers intended for the building to reflect Disneyland in its use of colors.(source) In their statement about the design, they say,
"pastel shades were the obvious choice avoiding bright or dark colors like red, green, orange. The form & colors are like a composition with one complimenting each other and not standing apart, it’s like fruit basket where all the fruits of different shapes & colors form a perfect composition." (source)
I do love that they were willing to take chances, and truly commited to embracing color.

image source
Alas, I think the result is more Nickelodeon cartoon and less functional design. I just keep thinking, "children's play structure at the mall". Is it just me? Maybe it's my taste that runs more towards clean, simple forms and palette, but this just feels SO over the top and out of control to me. My take? Stimulus overload!

What do you guys think? I'd love to hear your opinions.