Post 311 – by Gautam Shah 


colour in architecture 1

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.



Knossos Porch ch Exterior colours

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.

colour in architecture 2




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.

colour in architecture 3

Colours in Egyptian Dendera Temple

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.

metal-glass facades

FLOORING COLOUR (earlier Blog article)

PATTERNS in FLOORINGS (earlier Blog article)




Post 202 – by Gautam Shah 


Glass has had brilliantly glossy surface. The glossy surface resulted from grinding out the irregularities of surface casting-flattening the blown glass. The glossy surface often called a glassy face, presented variegated glimmers. The glass was produced in small pieces, and was rarely perfectly flat. Its composition within mullions and muntins, as a leaded pane, consisted of several small units, each at slightly a varied angle. It produced a very vivid surface, but one that was more opaque then transparent one.

Leaded Panes

Leaded Panes

Glossy surfaces in architectural exteriors were available on highly polished marbles and granites, but these soon weathered to a matt or dull face on exposure to weather. Ceramic mosaics were the only long lasting glossy surfaces, for the exteriors. On the interior face the glossy face of glass was rarely perceived, as the daylight filtering through it, made the surface gleaming or translucent. The gloss of the glass on the interior face, however, was seen against the polished marbles, granites, wood polishes, ceramic mosaics and gilding or metallizing.



The glass as Gothic stained glass was placed against the painted dull surface of fresco art work.  Former was back lit surface and the other was front lit by the opposite side openings. Both, the stained glass and the fresco were prone to weather. Stained glass weathered to brittle or crumbling surface and frescoes were susceptible to moist weather. As against both of these surface treatments ceramic mosaics were glossy and longer lasting.

Glass metallic grey surface

Glass metallic grey surface

In architecture on the exterior side, the glass was treated as a mass forming surface rather then the mass dissolving surface. During day time, on the interior face the glass was mass dissolving surface. Perception of night interior glass face, was not overbearing due to lack of high intensity of illumination (in early periods). The low level night interior illumination however was sufficient to highlight all the glassed and trellis opening faces against the dark building mass, over the exterior.

Strong window elements

Strong window elements

The glass-covered faces were of metallic-grey tone, without much tonal variations, except created by the visual aberration of due to multiple reflective and continuously varying tones of the surfaces. The interest, however, was framed by strongly patterned divisions of the window sub-units such as mullions and muntins. The contrast was very marked as the window framing elements were dull and of darker colour, whereas the glass was glossy and vivid.

Glass dissolving the mass on interior side

Glass dissolving the mass on interior side


The ‘mass’ perception of glass face was very different from all other materials that were used in early architecture. Glass helped dissolve almost indissoluble relation between the mass and gravity. The mass and gravity always occurred in architecture with inevitable simultaneity. A stable built-form was massive, and so perceived to be gravity-compliant, whereas any attempt to transgress the form by puncturing it or through an expansionist modulation was considered defiance of the gravity.

Glass Architecture Gravity defiant & Mass dissolution

Glass Architecture Gravity defiant & Mass dissolution

Glass provided a skin that was ethereal but form constituting. It was light in weight and yet un-massive due to the glossy face. It was ethereal because it allowed the transgression of the other side. The effort to de-mass the built-form through the de-materialization occurred in many different ways. The discernibility of the architectural elements was dissolved through the glossy surface of glass. The light passing through the glass suppressed the darkness that was enhancing the massiveness of corners, edges and ledges.