Fabrics in construction

I have researched the internet and found some buildings that have used woven materials in its construction.

This office block in Tokyo was completed by Japanese studio Aisaka Architects in Tokyo. The four-storey building Keiun Building sits between a railway line and a fire station, made up of a row of ground-level shops with three multi-tenant office floors above. The woven facade is called the knitting method which involved intertwining curving pieces of aluminium that function as sun shades for the offices within, the woven pieces are coloured in five different shades of red, which is intended to reference a brick building that once stood on the site. Steel brackets were used to hold the aluminium curves in place and these were attached to a layer of autoclaved aerated concrete panels,

Aisaka said the facade is a reinterpretation of the sudare – a traditional bamboo blind. “Focus is placed on the Japanese sudare that does not interfere with the area of the room and works to pass air while shutting down heat. It is substituted with the high-durability, light, and inexpensive aluminium,” (Mairs, 2015)

Each curved piece is fixed in place with a bolt at either end, holding the bowed shape, the exploded diagram below shows how it is made up in more detail. It reminds me of pieces of ribbon or party streamers threaded through each other and it’s practical too.

Fig. 1 Images of the red basket weave facade in Tokyo

Heatherwick Studios based in central London have transformed the entrance to Guys Hospital, London by adding an undulating facade of woven steel panels which encase the boiler house. This facade is known as The Boiler Suit and is made up of 108 undulating tiles of woven stainless steel braid, it is illuminated at night to provide a distinctive welcoming beacon for staff and visitors arriving at hospital in the dark and was only made possible thanks to funding from Pool of London Partnership, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and the Friends of Guy’s Hospital. The weave is so cleverly done, it looks just like a basket weave where the threads interlock.

Fig. 2 Images of the Boiler Suit at St Guys Hospital London


Fig. 1 – 3 The red basket weave facade in Tokyo https://www.dezeen.com/2015/02/23/aisaka-architects-keiun-building-red-basket-weave-facade-tokyo-office-block-japan/ (accessed 23/8/22)

Fig. 2 Images of the Boiler Suit at St Guys Hospital London https://www.dezeen.com/2007/08/20/boiler-suit-by-thomas-heatherwick/ (accessed 23/8/22)


(Mairs, 2015) https://www.dezeen.com/2015/02/23/aisaka-architects-keiun-building-red-basket-weave-facade-tokyo-office-block-japan/ (accessed 23/8/22)

Exercise 2: The Word

I have chosen a word that best describes a feeling that I would like to evoke in a designed space, that word is GRATEFUL.

I have found 10 material samples that accurately illustrate my chosen word and made an A3 texture sample board, these samples describe the word, GRATEFUL. These materials I have sourced locally, using actual materials helps communicate my ideas in such a good way.

I created a mind map, which is always such a helpful exercise.

The materials I have chosen are;

  • Wood
  • Stone
  • Essential Oils
  • Cotton
  • Bamboo
  • Cork
  • Limestone
  • Brick
  • Hemp
  • Linen
  • Hessian

I also researched each material. The materials I have chosen are all natural materials as they have a reduced impact on the environment. This was a vital part of the exercise for me to help showcase my chosen word. I am grateful for all the natural materials and resources our planet can offer and when done correctly, the materials can be harvested without negatively affecting the environment. They can also be disposed of safely without increasing the levels of pollution in the air, land, and sea.

Wood delivers on innovative design, speed, cost and resource efficiency, health & wellbeing, and offers a low-carbon, environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional building materials. It is strong, versatile, light and the only construction material that is 100% renewable because it does not deplete the earth of its natural resources. It’s a resource that more or less stands on its own, it can be grown and harvested over and over again.

Stone is made from nature, by nature. It requires no chemicals or hazardous additives and does not produce harmful gases, like many other building materials. Compared to manufactured alternatives, like brick and concrete, it uses little energy in its extraction and production. It’s a natural material that has strength, structure, texture, density, hardness, porosity and absorption.

Essential Oils not only smell great, they reduce stress, treat fungal infections, and help you sleep. They are concentrated extractions from plants. A process called distillation turns the “essence” of a plant into a liquefied form for many medicinal and recreational uses. Apart from providing a pleasant smell, there are lots of different oils and they all have their own benefits.

Wool is a natural protein fibre found on sheep from around the world. It is biodegradable, renewable, breathable, hypoallergenic, flame retardant, energy efficient and hard wearing. As well as these benefits it can also be used as insulation, brick reinforcement, packing material and often used when upholstering furniture.

Cotton is one of the strongest natural fibres around and is more durable and resistant than other fabrics. It benefits from being biodegradable, breathable, absorbent but has a tendency to fade and shrink. It is mostly grown in India, China and the USA, where it needs a warm climate to grow. It is not very sustainable due to its harvesting and manufacturing process.

Bamboo requires no chemicals and very little water to grow, it is an environmental wonder-plant. Bamboo absorbs more carbon dioxide from the air than either cotton or timber. It also releases more oxygen into the environment which improves air quality. It can be a very sustainable crop as it’s fast-growing grass, requires no fertiliser and self-regenerates from its own roots, so it doesn’t need to be replanted.

Cork grows naturally in the Mediterranean and Northwest Africa and originates from the cork oak tree which is an evergreen oak that has a thick corky bark, this is harvested to produce the cork. Every 20 years a cork tree is ready for its first harvest, which is of poor quality and so is used to make agglomerated cork products such as bottle stoppers, pin boards and insulation board. Every 9 years following, the cork bark is much better quality.

Limestone it’s often described as a soft stone but is actually much tougher than other common flooring materials like wood, carpet, vinyl or laminate as long as it has been sealed properly. This protection makes it very hard to stain, chip, scratch, or otherwise damage making it ideal for busy areas. It is heat resistant, a natural insulator and because it’s a natural material it makes it far easier to reuse or recycle.

Brick is the most economical material as its raw material is easily available. It’s durable, strong and there is very low maintenance cost involved. They offer sound insulation, help to control heat in the home and they have an aesthetic value. Red clay bricks are made of clay and water and contain no complex components or chemicals and this makes them completely recyclable which can be ultimately returned to our beautiful planet earth.

Hemp fabric is a sustainable textile made of fibres of a very high-yielding crop in the cannabis sativa plant family. Historically used for industrial purposes, like rope and sails, hemp is known as one of the most versatile and durable natural fibres. Hemp fabrics are stronger, more absorbent, more durable, and better insulating than cotton and as a crop grows extremely fast and requires no toxic pesticides or fertilisers, it also helps detoxify and regenerates the soil.

Linen is eco friendly, sustainable, versatile and breathable. It is moisture resistant and bacteria doesn’t easily grown in it, but easily wrinkles and if bleached or dyed, it can lose its biodegradable properties. Linen is one of the most sustainable fabrics because it is made from flax plants, a plant which grows without the need for fertilisers or pesticides, making it a renewable resource, one that is fast growing and can be produced without damaging the environment because the entire flax plant can be woven into a fibre, which means that almost no waste is left over from the spinning and weaving process. If organically processed without chemicals or intensive dyes, it also means no water pollution is made. Compared to other materials such as cotton, linen can be expensive because of its lengthy manufacturing process.

Hessian is completely biodegradable, given that it’s sourced from cheap yet sustainable plants. Hessian is a fabric produced from the jute fibre. The jute fibres are processed and made into this Hessian material which can be put into lot of use. No chemicals are used in this processing and hence it is considered as eco friendly. Hessian sacks are used for packaging products such as rice, coffee beans and potatoes. The woven nature of the fabric allows the contents to breathe and is therefore ideal for products that are moisture sensitive.

I then made an A3 texture sample board using actual samples of the materials I chose. I understand the value in using real samples to communicate my design ideas. I also played around with the arrangement in the garden with the natural sunlight peeping through and included a fig tree plant for context.

Fig. 1 – An A3 Sample board displaying the natural materials I have chosen

I picked up all the textile materials from my local Scrapstore, its a wonderful place where those with learning difficulties and autism get to meet, master new skills and move forwards. The scrapstore has an array of fabrics and craft supplies for sale, at a very cheap price, the staff are extremely helpful. Not only do they offer their trainees a programme and structure within the craft space, they also provide training in the cafe. One of their enterprises is TRACE. It is a social enterprise run by the Hub which is focused on recycling, reusing and reinvention. With the motto ‘leave no trace’, they aim to reduce the impact and trace what they save from landfill.

The wood, bamboo cane, red brick and slate were finds in my back garden, there’s always a reason I keep hold of everything, I’m now extremely grateful that I didn’t get rid of them! My neighbour is a dry stone waller and so after a chat with him about my project he gave me a piece of limestone and some ammonites, it’s bonkers to think that these fossils are over 10,000 years old! In the next part of this project I look further at ‘spiral’ and so these fossils seemed very fitting for my sample board.

What is fabric?

Kengo Kuma is a Japanese Architect, he weaves materials together to produce structures. Back in 2020, he worked with Australian artist Geoffrey Nees to create this semi-circular pavilion using timber harvested from dead or felled trees at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Commissioned for the NGV Triennial and based on traditional Japanese architecture, the Botanical pavilion is made of wood with the interlocking slats assembled as pieces of a puzzle and held together by tension and gravity. The timber used was collected from trees felled or removed during the millennium drought (1996–2010) at the Royal Botanic Gardens. It is a sensorial journey in which visitors are exposed to different essences of wood, different timber species have been arranged by colour, the timber slats were arranged in a pattern with a dark to light colour gradient as visitors moved along the walkway.

“In the design of this pavilion, small wooden pieces are assembled like a three-dimensional puzzle to form a structural arch. This approach is inspired by the Japanese carpentry tradition of using smaller elements, relying on joinery to achieve larger spans,” he added. (Architecture news & editorial desk, s.d)

This pavilion a beautiful structure, with the small pieces of wood he was able to layer them and create an organic shape, I really like how the light casts a pattern of shadows that mimics the shapes, they seem to dancing.

Fig. 1 – Images of Botanical Pavilion by Kengo Kuma and Australian artist Geoff Nees 

Another of his designs is the Yure, a Japanese expression for a nomadic habitat moving in the wind. The project is made from identical wooden pieces that are connected vertically and obliquely using traditional crafted joints, a technique commonly used by Japanese carpenters. The structure appears different from every view, seeking to blur the lines between art and architecture and create a distinct diversity of space.

Fabric style are designed to hang inside the structure, waterproofing the inside, and creating the structure’s separate rooms. Without the fabric hanging inside the open lattice of pieces create an organic and flexible space, which allows free movement through and up the structure by using the ladder to access the bedroom, living room, and terrace.

This structure reminds me of when I was a child and we used matchsticks to make an object or structure, glueing them together to hold them. It’s also reminiscent of building a tower using playing cards, you would try really hard to build it as high as you could until they would eventually collapse in a heap!

Fig. 2 – Images of Yure sculptural Pavilion in Paris, by Kengo Kuma


(Architecture news & editorial desk, s.d) https://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/news/kengo-kuma-s-botanical-pavilion-at-ngv-triennial# (accessed 19/8/22)


Fig. 1 – Botanical Pavilion by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and Australian artist Geoff Nees  https://www.dezeen.com/2020/12/19/kengo-kuma-botanical-pavilion-ngv-triennial-architecture/ (accessed 19/8/22)

Fig. 2 – Yure sculptural Pavilion in Paris, by Kengo Kuma https://www.archdaily.com/776541/kengo-kuma-designs-sculptural-pavilion-in-paris (accessed 19/8/22)

Exercise 1

What is texture and how is it useful?


I made a list of different ‘physical feelings’ and wrote down a material that, for me, illustrates that feeling.

  • Cold – Marble
  • Warm – Wood
  • Smooth – Resin
  • Rough – Stone
  • Soft – Velvet
  • Heavy – Concrete
  • Dark – Steel
  • Hollow – Polystyrene
  • Relaxed – Wool
  • Scalded – Denim

Using the same process I made a list of different ’emotional feelings’ and a material that evokes that particular feeling.

  • Angry – Pebbledash
  • Excited – Paint
  • Frightened – Plastic
  • Content – Velour
  • Confused – Vinyl
  • Love – Gemstone
  • Boredom – Plastic
  • Grateful – Limestone
  • Fear – Coal
  • Nostalgia – Denim
  • Empathy – Wood

When considering a calm space and materials for that space, my initial thoughts would be soft fabrics, light coloured materials, natural products such as wood, wool, real plants, real flowers, water, fresh air, stone, candle wax and paint. I have listed the textures that each of these materials would have.

  • Wood – Smooth and flat
  • Wool – Soft and textured
  • Real plants – Organic and smooth
  • Real flowers – Layered
  • Water – Smooth
  • Fresh air – Soft
  • Stone – Textured
  • Candle Wax – Silky
  • Paint – Soft

After completing this exercise I thought it would be interesting to ask other people the same question. I chose to ask 3 members of my family, two of my daughters and my husband. It was interesting hearing their responses, some were very different to mine but a few the same. It’s good to get other perspectives on design ideas and the emotions that materials have on each and every one, a very thought provoking exercise, which I particularly enjoy doing. It’s good to carry out this sort of exercise to remind yourself that we all have different perspectives towards design but can probably agree that some materials and emotions we share similar feelings towards and that having different emotions towards a fabric gives us room for discussion when designing a space.

  • Cold – Stone. Marble. Stone
  • Warm – Velvet. Coal. Carpet
  • Smooth – Glass. Granite. Paper
  • Rough – Straw. Sand. Coir doormat
  • Soft – Silk. Satin. Hair
  • Heavy – Granite. Lead. Brick
  • Dark – Slate. Coal. Coal
  • Hollow – Corrugate. Egg Shell. Card
  • Relaxed – Silk. Water. Fleece
  • Scalded – Leaves. Carpet. Water
  • Angry – Leather. Concrete. Geometric pattern
  • Excited – Bubblewrap. Gold. 3D pattern
  • Frightened – Coal. Steel. Water
  • Content – Cotton. Baise. Cotton
  • Confused – Carpet. Polystyrene. Blue Typography on paper
  • Love – Fleece. Duckdown Feather. Feather

The above two designs are similar but I can see that they use different materials and therefore have a different textural quality to each other. Each chair evokes a feeling of comfort and calm. The Bowl Chair, on the left looks comfortable and a seat that you could sit and relax in whilst reading a book or taking a nap. The Ball Chair, on the right, also looks comfortable but because it is more enclosed it makes me feel happy and safe, that feeling you have when a baby is born, a safe and joyous feeling. Texturally I think the Ball Chair has the edge, it looks to be softer to sit on and the material looks soft and warm, the Bowl Chair looks to made of leather which when sat on is quite cold to the skin, so although it may be soft to sit on it wouldn’t evoke the feeling of safe and joyous. Sophistication springs to mind when I think of the Bowl Chair but Fun and Joy springs to mind when looking at the Ball Chair.

I found other examples of furniture that looks as though is has been designed in order to evoke a really distinct feeling. Firstly, here is a seating design that was designed by Gigi Barker. The leather was stretched and moulded over the bulbous forms with the suede section facing side up, these were made as small clay models before translating them into the larger objects and then impregnated with pheromones and aftershave to evoke the sense of sitting on human flesh.

It really does mimic human flesh, which makes me feel a bit strange, but in the right setting I can understand how it would have a positive impact on the user. Barker’s intention was to create shapes that were not instantly recognisable as chairs and that made the viewer question how to interact with shape. This definitely made me question whether it looks comfortable because of the organic shapes or does it remind me of skin and make me hesitate and want to keep my distance? I feel intrigued and would like to sit and feel the emotion it would offer me.

Fig. 1 – Gigi Barker’s skin-covered seat designs infused with bodily scents

Another furniture design is The Flesh Chair, which was made from the concept “less is a bore” by student designer Nanna Kiil and modelled on an obese body.  Kiil was inspired by overweight humans and she wanted to work with aesthetic in a positive way.

She used memory foam covered in a light pink textile to create the flabby appearance of the armchair. A wrinkled breed of dog was also taken as a reference when forming the folds and creases. “I was really inspired by the sharpei dog, where the fat is something I find really attractive,” said Kiil. The foam was scrunched and wrinkled around a metal frame then sewn together along the edges. Wooden appendages are attached to the end of the frame and poke from the lumpy material to imitate hands and feet. (Howarth, 2014)

My niece had a sharpei dog, he was called Bean and was a beautiful soul full of fun and wrinkles, he was cuddly and comforting. Visually, the chair looks soft and snug, the layers add fun to the design and I honestly believe this chair would look great in different colours, I understand her reasons for designing in a flesh colour but imagine the same design in forest green or pillar box red, how amazing and fun that would be.

Fig. 2 – Flesh Chair by student designer Nanna Kiil

The Headspace Pod was designed by Mike & Maaike, a progressive industrial design studio, in collaboration with Headspace and intended for public spaces such as university campuses, offices, hotel lobbies, co-working and event spaces. It is an inviting and simple design that evokes joy and intended for people to experience Headspace, the project has resulted in physical prototypes which is fantastic news. We, as humans, have our daily challenges and on top of that we have all experienced a couple of years of pandemic hell, so this sort of design will hopefully help those who may be struggling with their mental wellbeing, giving them the opportunity to sit and listen to some relaxing mindfulness. I’m impressed that it was intended for public spaces, it’s a simple organic shape that could sit perfectly within both an interior and exterior space providing a disassociation with work and media, it offers a built-in directional audio, with upright seating that creates a posture ideal for cultivating mindfulness.

Fig. 3 – The Headspace Pod designed by Mike & Maaike in collaboration with Headspace


Fig. 1 – Gigi Barker’s skin-covered seat designs infused with bodily scents https://www.dezeen.com/2014/07/23/gigi-barker-studio-9191-body-of-skin-leather/ (accessed 7.8.22)

Fig. 2 – Flesh Chair by student designer Nanna Kiil https://www.archiscene.net/design/flesh-chair-nanna-kiil/ (accessed 7.8.22)

Fig. 3 – The Headspace Pod designed by Mike & Maaike in collaboration with Headspace https://www.mikeandmaaike.com/#p_mandm (accessed 7.8.22)


(Howarth, 2014) https://www.dezeen.com/2014/02/05/flesh-chair-wrapped-in-squishy-rolls-of-fat-by-nanna-kiil/ (accessed 7.8.22)

Reflection Assignment 2

My tutor was pleased to see that I am making progress on this unit and continuing with the work within my learning log. She was pleased to see my use of sketching and has encouraged me to explore more posts about sketching, both annotated and rendered.

When presenting this assignment, I didn’t fully expand upon the materials and the history of how the designer came to this design decision. I had researched his ideas but I didn’t show that in my work, only in my notes.

My CAD drawing wasn’t completely accurate, my tutor pointed out that my section drawing looked more like an unrolled view of the lamp, which it does unfortunately! I will revisit this drawing and re draw, giving me more practise with the software, which I know I need. Hopefully, one day soon I’ll get the hang of section drawing!

Going forward I have made a list to help organise my thoughts and actions

  • continue to back up my work with images or diagrams
  • be more experimental with how I communicate my ideas
  • practise more using Autocad
  • explore more posts about sketching
  • expand upon my research
  • continue documenting my ideas throughout my learning log and show my notes and analysis of my work

I will continue to look at ways of improving my work and expand upon my research and drawing when considering all the detail that should be put in my assignments.

Research Task: In and Out

As an extension to my studies I have carried out some research to find other work by Le Corbusier and other modernist architect’s buildings that are usually perceived as pared-back or colourless from the outside, but that has a significant use of colour in the interior. 

Maison du Bresil is one of Le Corbusier’s residential designs. Built in 1957, it is one of twenty-three international residences at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, located in the heart of Paris. It is known as the “House of Brazil” and the building acts as both a residence hall for Brazilian academics, students, teachers, and artists and as a hub for Brazilian culture, by providing exhibition spaces and archival resources. The colour you can see on the outside of the building tells me that this is just a sneak peak of what is happening inside. The bold colours make a real statement on the interior and I like that he used other colours alongside the traditional Brazilian colours of green, yellow and blue. The colours are vibrant and happy and cheer up the brutalist architecture.

Fig. 1 – Le Corbusier’s Maison du Bresil

Widawscy Studio Architects are a multidisciplinary design studio involved in architecture, interior design and industrial design projects. In their projects they combine minimalism with timeless modernism. They find inspiration by combining the old with the new. Here are two examples of their work.

Firstly, D47 is a home in Myslowice, Poland, designed for a pair of young travellers using white walls, antiqued floorboards and old brick which gives the interior a natural feel. The home has become a stage for modern furniture, colourful accents and geometric patterns that loved its residents. Loving the colourful interior, adding intrigue at every turn.

Fig. 2 – D47 is a home in Myslowice, Poland. designed by Widawscy Studio Architects

Secondly, D70 has an irregular, raw shape which became the inspiration for creating the interior of the house, it was important the interior reflected the exterior. The only accent colours inside the house are mint and turquoise as requested by their client. A family of 5 reside in the bright and spacious interior for whom a combination of good quality and design was a priority. I’m not a huge fan of mint and turquoise but that’s my personal opinion, if I was asked to include those two colours in a brief then I would choose similarly to this design and combine it with the odd statement piece in green and yellow, just to soften the strong tones of turquoise.

Fig. 3 – D70 is a house in Gliwice, Poland designed by Widawscy Studio Architects


Fig. 1 – Le Corbusier’s Maison du Bresil https://divisare.com/projects/197538-le-corbusier-cemal-emden-maison-du-bresil (accessed 27.7.22)

Fig. 2 – D47 designed by Widawscy Studio in Poland https://www.widawscy.pl/en/projekty/projekty_wnetrza/47_DOM_MYSLOWICE (accessed 27.7.22)

Fig. 3 – D70 House in Gliwice, Poland designed by Widawscy Studio Architects and Designers https://architizer.com/projects/d70-house-in-gliwice-poland/ (accessed 27.7.22)

Research Task

Can I find other designers that use colour as a core part of their designs?

Miles Redd is known for his bold and cinematic approach to designs. His career has influenced his designs which have a really strong connection with the fashion world and well known by the lovers of luxury. After graduating from New York University he worked with antique dealer John Rosselli and the famous decorator Bunny Williams. In 1998, he opened his own interior design firm in New York City’s NoHo neighbourhood. Although known for his injection of colour he also has an awareness of how spaces and furniture fit together, he has designed pared back spaces but adds playful areas with that touch of colour. These designs are just beautiful, full of fun and character, warm and inviting yet luxurious and high end designs compliment the colour within that space.

Fig. 1 – Images of Miles Redd’s spatial designs

Nicola Harding started her career as a garden designer and is known for creating comfortable, inviting and atmospheric spaces. Historic buildings and set design fascinate and inspire her which both evoke such a specific feeling and lots of nostalgia. This is so important when getting to know her clients as she sets out to design interiors with a sense of place and belonging. My creative influences are very similar, I’m inspired by the buildings and outdoor spaces around us, I’m intrigued by the people who use or reside in the buildings, how they use the space, how these spaces make them feel.

Fig. 2 – Images of Nicola Harding’s spatial designs

Designers such as John Pawson are known for this type of pared-back approach or visual and spatial feel. Sometimes the perception has been that this type of space is cold, empty or not-homely and uncomfortable. But would the simple addition of coloured surfaces change this or is there more to be considered? Before adding colour you would need to consider the room itself, who uses it and what is its intention. What material is the furniture made from. This way you get a better understanding of its original purpose without compromising on the design. From this information you could bring in some colour in the shape of artwork and/or furnishings but not until you have a full understanding of the brief.

A very simplistic, clean and modern room interior featuring a small fireplace and two armchairs.
Fig. 3 – John Pawson, House. Photograph by Ndecam: Creative Commons


Fig. 1 – Images of Miles Redd’s spatial designs https://onehundrededition.com/100-top-interior-designer-miles-redd/ and https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/miles-redd-designed-california-family-home-article (accessed 27.7.22)

Fig. 2 – Images of Nicola Harding’s spatial designs https://sheerluxe.com/home/cool-interior-designer-shows-us-her-london-home (accessed 27.7.22)

Fig. 3 – John Pawson, House. Photograph by Ndecam: Creative Commons – OCA course content (accessed 27.7.22)

Project 3: Understanding the Use of Colour

I carried out some research on the history of colour theorists. Early studies of the nature of colour began with Aristotle who in 330 B.C. arranged five chromatic colours on a line between black and white, in this image it shows that the lighter colours begin with yellow close to white and darker colours begin with blue close to black.

Fig. 1 – Aristotle’s Linear system of colour theory
Fig. 2 – Aristotle’s colour theory drawing

Aristotle believed that God sent down the colours from heaven as celestial rays. He identified four colours corresponding to four elements: earth, fire, wind and water. These four elements are what we know today as earth being associated with brown and green, wind associated with blue, white, yellow or grey, fire is often red or orange and water is mostly associated with the colour blue.

In the 1400’s Leonardo de Vinci was the first to suggest an alternative hierarchy of colour. He saw that although philosophers viewed white as the receiver of colours and black as the absence of colour, that both were essential colours with white representing light and black the darkness. The six colours he listed were in this order: white, yellow, green, blue, red and black, which you can also in Fig. 1.

More recent theorists such as Frank H Mahnke who is an architectural consultant for architectural projects has devoted his life to the study of colour to help designers create healthier built environments. He has written that human reaction depends on a multitude of factors, and that firstly we must consider that in choosing appropriate surface colours much depends on the specific hue, its value and intensity. He also reminds us that where colour is placed and how much of it, for what purpose and the length of time it will be in that place should all be taken into account. The world needs more people like this, to help guide students in the right direction and to help make the right healthier choices when designing for today’s environment.

Linda Holtzschue is a principal of a design firm based in New York City and writes that more changes have taken place in the way designers approach colour in the last few decades than have occurred in the last few centuries. This is mainly due to the shift in technology, colour is now a whole new world and at times a very confusing one. Her most recent book ‘Understanding Color’ is learning to see in the new way as well as the old.

I’m currently reading The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair who is an author, design and culture writer based in London. One of her opening pages writes that colour is fundamental to our experiences of the world around us, but how is that we see these things? Her explanation is clear and concise, she adds that what we are really seeing when we look at objects of colour is light being reflected off the surface and into our eyes. Different things are different colours because they absorb some wavelengths of the visible light spectrum while others bounce off. In this book she explains everything so simply which I find easy to understand without being bogged down by the science of it all! She then goes on to write about different colours, shades and the history and stories behind each one. When I consider colours now I pick up the book and read the chapter that applies to that particular colour, it’s an interesting fun read giving a different meaning to colour, adding character and depth to my thoughts on design and colour.


Fig. 1 – Aristotle’s Linear system of colour theory http://www.huevaluechroma.com/071.php (accessed 25/7/22)

Fig. 2 – Aristotle’s colour theory drawing https://www.openculture.com/2013/09/goethes-theory-of-colors-and-kandinsky.html (accessed 25/7/22)

Exercise 1

Experimenting with colour

To explore the spatial effects of particular colours, I have drawn a simple perspective showing the far end of a room with two walls either side, a ceiling, a window and a floor. I made six copies of this drawing and then painted each space using acrylic paint with similar or different colours, I chose to work with 3 different shades of green, black, brown, yellow, orange and blue. To be honest I didn’t have any other different colours in my paint box and so I was limited but I think I’ve managed to create different perspectives of the same space. I covered all five other rooms with a piece of paper so that I could get a better idea of how I felt the room and the colours made me feel. I have added the images below and given each one a letter with my comments alongside each one. Each of the spaces look different and this is because of the use of colour, the shade of colour, the darker the shade the more dramatic the space looks but not necessarily the most impressive or attractive.

Fig. 1 – A collection of six identical sized rooms painted in different colours to show different perspectives
Fig. 2 A A black wall at the back of the room doesn’t draw me in, it makes me stop and consider the brighter colours on the wall and the ceiling but walk not further, the room feels longer.
Fig. 3 – B I’m drawn straight way to the back wall and enjoying the journey of the bright yellow on the floor, the green walls direct my eye to the back while the blue ceiling adds mystery and an outdoor feeling.
Fig. 4 – C This room somehow feels longer, not sure whether its the white wall to the left or the dark brown floor all the while my eye is drawn to the orange wall at the back.
Fig. 5 – D This perspective makes me consider the environment, the green and blue tones are the reason for that but it feels jolly!
Fig. 6 – E I’m confused by the left wall and the floor, they are both the same colour and merge as one but it feels disjointed and shorter than the other rooms.
Fig. 7 – F This perspective makes me feel happy, the bright yellow and orange tones fill my heart and the two yellow tones adjacent to each other work much better than the darker shades in room E. The room also feels longer.

I enjoyed this exercise, it gave me a chance to work with colours that I wouldn’t normally consider painting on walls, floors and ceilings. It’s also reminded me of an exhibition that I attended recently, The Van Gogh Exhibition, The Immersive experience. One of his famously painted rooms is full of colour but was shown in three different perspectives. The furniture pieces have different brightness and colour contrast. As Van Gogh says “paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter’s soul”. The rooms are almost identical but by changing the pigmentation of the paint colours changes the whole perspective of the image.

Fig. 8 – An image at the Vincent Van Gogh Immersive Experience Exhibition
Fig. 9 – A Vincent Van Gogh Painting at the Exhibition

What a wonderful quote, ‘What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything.’ Having learnt about colour and chromophobia in this part of the unit has reinforced my love of colour and encouraged me to believe in the use of colour and learn when it’s the right time and design to do so.


Fig. 1 – 7 My own drawings and paintings of a room perspective

Fig. 8 and 9 – My own photographs taken at the Vincent Van Gogh Immersive Experience Exhibition 2022

Research Task

Johannes Itten

I watched a video lecture on Johannes Itten and the use of colour. Itten was a Swiss painter and teacher who worked at the Bauhaus in 1919, where he taught his students about the basic concepts of colours, materials and compositions and he developed colour theories learning from theorists before him. Through his own research he identified seven fundamental categories of contrast which are hue, light-dark, cold-warm, complementary, simultaneous, saturation and extension. He encouraged exploration of colour through contrasts urging students to feel their own way into an exercise, which revealed different personalties and aesthetic choices. His education of colour using the 12 part colour circle that he constructed using the primary colours yellow, red and blue he then added mixed colours to the triangle in the centre that created secondary colours, thereafter comes the tertiary colours.

Fig. 1 – Johannes Itten’s colour wheel

He then would get his students to look at the 7 colour contrasts he identified; hue, light-dark, cold-warm, complementary, analogous, saturation, and extension. He constructed this in a careful specific way so that the colours didn’t lean towards either primary component and encouraged his students to mix specific colours together to strengthen their knowledge of the use of colour. This way of ordering colour set up a rule book that would then try to determine the exact effect of placing one colour next to another.

Fig. 2 – Johannes Itten’s colour contrasting

He believed that to become a master of colour you must see, feel and experience each colour in its many endless combinations. For interior design purposes it’s important to understand cold to warm contrast which suggests closeness and distance, as well as simultaneous contrast which shows the way in which two colours affect each other, the colours themselves don’t change but we see them alter. This lecture was interesting, I already had an understanding of how colours make me feel, I believe that colours play a part on our emotions but that we as humans, can also feel so differently towards the same colour. We have the colour theory fundamentals in place, we can learn to understand how colours compliment one another, how one colour may dominate another and how the psychology behind colour evoke all different emotions. When we use colour in our designs we are communicating how we would like that room to feel, people will have a direct impact when they first see the colour, which is why choosing the right colour, tone and shade is an important part of every design.

Josef Albers

Another colour theorist, Josef Albers, was taught by Itten at the Bauhaus and later became a teacher there too, before then going on to exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1971. His approach was very much the same as Itten’s, he approached colour based on the human experience and encouraged his students to explore and analyse their own experience of colour around them. Colour is perceived differently by each person, an example of which is pictured below, the ochre squares are both the same colour but sat amongst different colours gives the idea they are both very different shades. Colour is very subjective and evokes all different types of feelings and emotions, so when we are discussing colour for a client or a design we must firstly understand how colour works and be specific and clear about our intentions, this will help the design become much more effective.

Fig. 3 – The cover of Interaction of Color. Published by Yale University Press in 1963


Fig. 1 – Johannes Itten’s colour wheel https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/11852466/12-part-color-circle-johannes-itten-developed-from-primary-and- (accessed 2.7.22)

Fig. 2 – Johannes Itten’s colour contrasting https://studylib.net/doc/8263180/johannes-itten—inter (accessed 2.7.22)

Fig. 3 – The cover of Interaction of Color. Published by Yale University Press in 1963 http://www.louisapenfold.com/albers-interaction-of-color/ (accessed 27.7.22)