Elena Manferdini explains that this instalment of the [email protected] series will address the topic of color.
Manferdini begins with an exploration of the conceptual problem of color, focusing on the meanings of whiteness. She begins with the association of Greek and Roman antiquity with whiteness, which since Johann Joachim Winckelmann to the present has been associated with whiteness—white buildings, white statues—despite knowledge that classical architecture and sculpture was originally polychrome. She characterizes Le Corbusier’s use of white as a translation of idea of classicism into modernism, with the added suppression of ornament. At the same time Corbusier popularized an understanding of white as a sign of utopia and eternal aesthetic relevance, Italian Fascists deployed white as the color of totalitarian power, erasing all individuality, disorder and dissent.
Florencia Pita discusses the experimental uses of color, focusing on the evolution of color theory from Newton to now. Newton’s color wheel superseded empirical paint-based color charts, proposing a systematic theory of color harmony. This was expanded by by Claude Boutet, and Ignaz Schiffermüller. Goethe rejected Newton, proposing his own theory, which was promoted by Arthur Schopenhauer in On Vision and Colors (1816). Philipp Otto Runge’s color sphere (1810) extended the color wheel in three dimensions. His ideas were systematized by Albert Henry Munsell in 1910, defining colors on the basis of three variables: hue, value (lightness), and chroma (saturation). In the 20th century, Johannes Itten promoted a system of complimentary & analogous colors, while Joseph Albers challenged students to create new color wheels, and investigated changing perception of colors. His book, The Interaction of Color, marks the transition from color as paint to color as printed matter—the CMYK color model of cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). The Pantone Matching System proprietary color space defined colors by numbers to ensure standardized output. The new color space of print media was reflected in pop art (Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist) and in related architectural work as demonstrated by “The Duck and the Document: True Stories of Postmodern Procedures” in the SCI-Arc Gallery (Summer 2017), curated by Sylvia Lavin.
Manferdini and Pita respond to comments from the audience on theoretical versus experiential uses of color, the cultural anthropology of color terminology, architecture’s lack of color theory, color as event, and the need for students to be aware of the cultural resonance of their color choices.