Post 311 – by Gautam Shah
Colours of Buildings affect many spatial qualities of a built space on both, the interior and exterior faces. Colours used in buildings once were mostly of the natural material surfaces or as applied on it. On exterior face the colour distinguishes a building among many other nearly similar ones. It also emphasizes the architectural elements. In early ages of a street without intensive night lighting, the colour of the building allowed it to be perceptible. Sides of the openings with lighter tones helped the night interior light to have a wider glow. The choices for exterior colours were fewer then on the interior sides. Colours of the naturally available materials were smartly exploited in several buildings across ages and locations. Natural materials like timbers, stones, soils, or materials processed out of these from the local region have phylogenetic relationship. There is an equality of hue and tone across the local materials.
The colour palette began to change with trade across distanced places. The adventitious effect began to occur when minute quantities of materials such as minerals, pigments, and dyes were bought from other regions. The first use of these additives was in the form of painting or colouring of leather, cloth, timbers, art work, ceramics, fabrics and body make-up. The colour schemes of ceramics, paints and fabrics were drastically altered. These colour-effected materials were initially used in palaces or religious buildings. The effects, however, percolated to ordinary buildings and people in different way. Here art and craft objects of exotic colour schemes were used as a rarity and as gesture of modernity.
Exterior sides of buildings for a very long time (as much as 9th C.) had colours of the natural materials. The surface variation was through the inclusion of architectonic elements, textures and joints’ patterns. Greeks used streaks in natural materials, mosaics and joint’s pattern for surface variations. The Ordinary Romans exploited debris of old buildings for variegated marbles. These colourful marbles were not local as came from distant lands. The Romans, on the exterior surfaces also used calcimine type of water-based coatings with iron oxides as the colourants. Romans created borders and central patterns with mosaics and inlay pieces of colourful stones and glazed ceramics. Byzantinian used marbles from debris of buildings but their intention was contrast and pattern definition, rather than a unified colour scheme.
Interior spaces once had dominantly natural colours of wood, plasters, terracotta, marble, granite and other building stones (like slate, sandstone, quartzite, etc.). These colours were enhanced or supplemented by embellishments made of metal and furnishing fabrics. The interior spaces were stucco or fresco painted. The walls and ceilings had decorations of paintings, murals, carvings, and colourings. The colours of embellishments and decorations though substantially of natural range were much intense tone and purer hues. Interior spaces were protected spaces so lot of non-sun-fast colours and bleeding coatings (water soluble) of natural gums could be used. Ceramics were the next lot of exotic colour materials.
In early ages metals like bronze, brass, copper, iron, tin, gold and silver had natural colours. It was not possible to re-colour these substances, except the patina formation on bronze was a controlled process. Metals were ‘colour’ altered by processes such as metallizing, chasing, inlaying. Tin, gold, and silver plating was effective way adding a ‘coloured’ identity. Metal’s own colours or altered with plating were very distinct from the ‘earth’ colours of minerals, glowing hues of dyes or ‘fired’ colours of ceramics. The metal colours were soon challenged by glass. Glass with its impurities had many different ‘Metallic’ shiny colours. These were now pot coloured or stained. The Metals and Glass were successfully coloured in multiple hues at the start of middle ages.
FLOORING COLOUR (earlier Blog article)
PATTERNS in FLOORINGS (earlier Blog article)