Our perception and experience of a space can be altered or manipulated by the application of colour. In this report, the chosen example is the Voula Children Rehabilitation Centre by Schema Architecture & Engineering as part of the Big Smile Project, located in Athens, Greece. The three topics chosen for the purpose of analysing the application of colour in the aforesaid example are as follows; Colour Combination Techniques, Colour Therapy and Psychology, and Colour & Human Response. This report will also discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the colour design used in the example.
As shown the above interior images, it is notable that the architects have employed colour combination techniques in order to apply many colours in one limited space. Despite the notion that colour is secondary in design and architecture (Gage, 1995), the interior of the rehabilitation centre for children features colour as its prominent part. Importantly, the “analogous complementary” colour technique is applied to combine a set of colours similar in hue and a small proportion of contrasting colours. In this respect, a large part of the interior has colours in shades of cool colours, namely, blue and purple. Therefore, this colour technique attempts to rely on colour harmony or hue similarity, given that the colours blue and purple are alongside each other on a colour wheel (Feisner, 2000). However, a complementary colour, that is yellow green, is also used in conjunction with the more subtle background colours of blue and purple to add more exciting ambiance.
The use of complementary colour clearly attempts to neutralise or balance the overall combination of colours (Chevreul, 1855). Further, it appears that neutral colours, white and off-white of walls and floor tiles, is purposefully used in the communal space allowing the more exciting colours to dominate and attract attention. Therefore, it is obvious from this example that the colour combination techniques not only provide useful guidance for architects in their selection of colours, but also serve to explain the rationale behind how different colours work together. Apart from colour combination techniques, architects have made use of colour therapy and colour psychology to create desirable environment for the physical and mental development of disabled children. Children residing here are diagnosed with severe mental retardation or physical disability, and unfortunately most of them are abandoned by their parents (SNF, 2013). Accordingly, through the application of colour therapy and colour psychology, the cool colour scheme of blue, indigo, and purple is applied to the interior to produce safe, calm, soothing, and resting atmosphere, symbolizing the sky and seabed.
Similarly to modern hospital interior, colours are introduced to promote patients’ eye resting instead of traditional white room, “the convalescent needs the therapeutic reaction of the positive colours that nature has spread so lavishly for her children” (Ludlow, 1921). Moreover, “colour can affect people’s mood, perception of temperature and time, and their ability to concentrate” (Sharma & Krishan, 2007). Therefore, careful application of colours to each space in the centre is vital. As shown in the above images, a lighter tone of blue is selected for sleeping chambers to create airy and relaxing atmosphere. This is also because “our eyes were made to find rest and contentment in soft colours” (Ludlow, 1921).
On the other hand, a darker blue colour is applied to the passage way of the ramp to create feelings of protection and also to visually manipulate the ramp to appear shorter. All of these psychological effects of colours account for the design of the rehabilitation interior to produce a suitable place for children to live, develop, and grow. Moreover, human response to colour applied in the interior space can affect the level of human activities and interactions. Some colours possess the ability to arouse human experience, while others possess calming and soothing effect.
Since the rehabilitation centre mainly involves human treatments, the architects have chosen cool colours to comfort the patients. Blue, the balancing colour, regulates blood stream to normal and decrease the nervous excitement, whereas indigo is thought to be a cooling and soothing astringent (Sharma & Krishan, 2007). Furthermore, it is suggested that blue tends to restore equilibrium, suppress hunger, and also makes individual underestimate time (Goldstein, 1942). However, individuals respond to colours differently as a result of a number of factors such as age and gender.
It is proposed that “children tend to prefer brighter, more saturated colours in terms of environmental settings” (Cohen & Trotle, 1990; Zenter, 2001). Hence, despite a wide range of age in the rehabilitation centre, the architects carefully combine and compromise different preferences of colour to one acceptable standard. The interior’s colour design takes into consideration human response so as to relieve stress and promote creativity in order to prepare the children for their lives ahead. The use of colour in design related works, especially in architecture and interior, can strengthen or weaken the design considerably. In the interior space of the Voula Children Rehabilitation Centre, colour application has several advantages in addition to those mentioned earlier.
Firstly, colours camouflage the identity of the rehabilitation centre. Fun and exciting colours are applied to the interior, taking away the image of traditional rehabilitation and creating a friendlier and more welcoming place for children. Secondly, colour serves as a tool of way finding and place recognition. For example, children may be able to follow the dark blue colour up and down the ramp and the mentally disadvantaged children may better recognize their rooms by reason of the use of basic colour. Thirdly, contrast of colours help to increase awareness of the furniture or obstacle placements. For example, bright yellow-green door frame clearly marks the edge of the opening and will decrease the chance of young children running into the wall.
Despite the benefits of the colour design, the application of colour in the interior has some drawbacks. For example, residents may find distinct colours of the interior boring over time because it is too easy to recognize. Further, it can be seen as unnecessary decoration when viewed from the Modernism perspective (Loss ; Opel, 1908). However, these disadvantages are relatively minor and can be overcome easily by small adjustments, for example, repainting some of the walls with different tone but similar in hue, or as easy as introducing items with more exciting colours into the space. In conclusion, the interior design of the Voula Children Rehabilitation Centre is an accomplishing example of colour application.
Through use of colour combination techniques, colour therapy and colour psychology, together with colour and human response, the application of colour reinforces the functionality of the centre and creates a friendlier ambiance for disabled children. More importantly, this colour design alters the perception of the children within the centre from it being a usual place of rehabilitation to a place where they could call it “home. ”
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