Wednesday, 18 March 2020


Saturated Space is the Colour Research Cluster at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.
This website is a working resource for the group and its collaborators, and will develop in parallel to the seminars, exhibitions, and physical test-case studies that will take place and be produced between the school and the Cluster's partner organisations.

Below is the site's blog
where we will be writing articles, inviting guest posts, and uploading extracts from relevant texts... a technicoloured compost heap of knowledge.

Above are links to the site's various pages
where you can find out who and what we are, information about the events we are organising as they come up, our bibliographical archive of books to read on the subject, links to friends and partners, and to our online publications.

Monday, 3 September 2018

The Failed Utopia of the Crystal Chain

Exclusively for Saturated Space, a new text by Darran Anderson

"The Failed Utopia of the Crystal Chain" by Darran Anderson, examines the importance of light and colour for visionary German architects between the wars, and how unbuildable designs altered the future.  

Monday, 23 July 2018

Color Imago: Paradigms of Colour

Exclusively for Saturated Space, a new text by Giacomo Pala

Pala explores different attitudes towards colour in architecture through the prism of three Austrian architects for whom colour and its utilization was extremely important, Adolf Loos, Josef Frank, and Hans Hollein

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The Orange and the Green

Exclusively for Saturated Space, a new text by Jon Astbury

"Paint is ubiquitous, one of the most prevalent mediators between vision and the built environment. And yet as a complex material in its own right, any discussion of paint is often subjugated to the realms of superficiality and superfluity: it isn’t party to discussions of architecture making, it is simply a form of clothing that architecture wears.

Here, using the example of MVRDV’s repainted Studio Thonik project in Amsterdam, the theoretical considerations that the use of paint and the act of painting can encourage will be considered, in an attempt to open up some areas in which its usage can be reclaimed as just as worthy of consideration as space or form."

Friday, 24 November 2017

Blue Ufalei, Red Porphyry and Green Aluminium: The Polychrome World of Socialist Metro Systems

Exclusively for Saturated Space, a new text by Owen Hatherley

"Creating light-filled spaces dozens of metres under the ground is inherently difficult. From the 1930s until the 1990s, Metro stations across eastern Europe responded to this with multicoloured station halls, lined with exotically coloured materials, creating a surreal wonderland in the bowels of the earth."

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Art of Pure Colour

Exclusively for Saturated Space, a new text by Valentino Danilo Matteis

"J. W. Root was one of the main figures in the history of Chicago architecture. This paper explores his theories on a colouristic approach towards building, and his extensive understanding of the contemporary debate in art and architecture through the example of his masterpiece, the Monadnock, a rather misunderstood building that condensed many of the architect’s ideas, but was deprived of others, above all its -and Root’s- astonishing sense of colour."

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Aldo Rossi & Colour

“Souvenir d'Afrique”, Aldo Rossi, Tessiture Sarde, Storea editore, 1988

Jacopo Costanzo introduces us to the rich chromatic world of Rossi, its relationship to personal passion, local context, and a very particular Italian lineage.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Saturated Space VIII: Johanna Grawunder

Johanna Grawunder, an artist, architect and designer, takes us through her body of work, and shares a highly singular, sophisticated, and fun relationship with colour, materiality and light.

Saturated Space VIII: Johanna Grawunder from Saturated Space on Vimeo.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Saturated Space VIII: Eric Parry

Eric Parry takes us through his interest in craft and polychromy, telling the story of his collaboration with artist Richard Deacon on the ceramic facade of One Eagle Place, Piccadilly.

Saturated Space VIII: Eric Parry from Saturated Space on Vimeo.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Saturated Space VIII: Nicholas Fox Weber

Nicholas Fox Weber discusses the relationships that Joseph and Anni Albers had with colour and Architecture, at Saturated Space VIII, an event at the Architectural Association on the 11th November 2016

Saturated Space VIII: Nicholas Fox Weber from Saturated Space on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Saturated Space VIII: Fiona McLachlan

Mc Lachlan's talk during Saturated Space VIII that we held at the Architectural Association on the 11th November 2016. She reveals colour strategies in architecture that were unearthed and explored in the research for "Colour Strategies in Architecture", which Fiona wrote with co-authors from the Haus der Farbe, Zurich, as well as in the exhibition of the same name at the Architectural Association.

Saturated Space VIII: Fiona McLachlan from Saturated Space on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A Fleeting Glimpse of Heaven

Exclusively for Saturated Space Eleanor Jolliffe unearths the shimmering delights of the material, technical, historical, and experiential story of Byzantine architectural mosaics.

"The golden mosaics of Byzantine churches hold a particular allure to tourist and pilgrim alike. These timeless representations of the divine have fascinated viewers for centuries. This paper considers the manufacture, use and experience of the glass tiles, or tesserae, used in these mosaics- specifically gold tesserae.
Gold tesserae were used in ecclesiastical mosaics specifically as a representation of divine light, and, in collaboration with architectural form and curated lighting were crafted to inspire spiritual experiences. A modern viewing of these mosaics is vastly different to a Byzantine viewing and this paper also explores these differences, and the question of whether tesserae can still hold the same meaning and significance in the present day."

Friday, 29 July 2016


^VW Polo Mark III Harlequin, 1995

There is shiny colour all around us, lining our streets. Cars are a cross between clothes and buildings - you wear them as much as inhabit them - and they make a permanent urban fashion parade. Exclusively for Saturated Space Hugh Pearman, editor of the RIBA Journal, discusses automobile colour as a vehicle of memory and association.

Monday, 28 March 2016

In the Light of a Clear Blue Wall

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Neil Stephen Flannagan tells the story of colour in the spaces of Gallaudet University for the deaf and hard of hearing.

"A dull shade of blue is spreading on the walls of Gallaudet University. It’s not an official color, but rather a practical accommodation for its students, who are overwhelmingly Deaf and so primarily communicate in sign language. This blue provides a comfortable, clear background to read the hands and faces used to converse. The factors that make blue special connect race, digital media, and the peculiar rarity of the color in the human environment. What it implies is a clear functional role for coloration and a reminder that to be “human-centered,” design must grapple with troublesome issues of identity and history."

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Whistler and Peacock Blue

^Whistler's Peacock Room, Neil Greentree / Freer Gallery of Art

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Amanda Kolson Hurley tells the engrossing, gossipy, tangled story of the genesis of the Peacock Room, its intimate relationship with Whistler the artist, and his reputation, the end it brought to a key friendship, all of which was deeply stained with the enigmatic and somewhat equivocal shade that suffused the room, and came to be known as Peacock Blue.

"The story behind James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room is one of high artistic ambition, a quarrel over money, and a broken friendship. Less well known is the origin of its color scheme, especially the color we have come to know as "peacock blue." Why did Whistler paint the room a moody teal and not, as one would expect, the deep blue of a peacock's breast? This article considers Whistler's color choices and argues that "peacock blue" is a shade that owes more to Whistler than to nature."

Monday, 27 July 2015

Does the Barreleye Dream of Swiss Cheese? Windows, Mirrors and Holes

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Amelia Stein oscillates through the multiple transparencies -reflective, deep, superficial and profound- of our contemporary environment.

"This series of passages explores how transparency, reflectivity and opacity can adhere to, encroach on and confuse ideas about colour. It imagines a spectrum not just of light but of the mediation of light by these surface properties, which transmit, reflect and absorb light in time and space in ways both distinct from and connected to colour. Using the models of windows, mirrors and holes, and the examples of the barreleye fish, sunglasses and Swiss cheese, among others, this piece asks what we see when we look at, through, and into surfaces."

Sunday, 12 July 2015

I'm Beginning to See the Light

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Jack Murphy delves into the world of Robert Irwin's chromatic emitters.

"Robert Irwin is an American artist from Los Angeles whose work deals with perception. Cacophonous, a show of recent light pieces at the Pace Gallery in New York City. Starting from the ready-made cool white fluorescent tube 6' or 8' in length, Irwin layers coloured gels—sometimes up to a dozen overlays—to manipulate, reflect, darken, or fully obscure the bulb's output. A visit to the show affords the opportunity to reflect generally on Irwin's use of colour throughout his career, and to dig deep into the rich chromatic experience of these works."

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Blinky Palermo's Wall drawings & Wall Paintings: Line, Colour and Consciousness

^Blinky Palermo, Wandmalerei im großen Saal der Kunsthalle, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden,
1970. Photograph Erika Fischer

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Mark Pimlott explores the subtle spatial ambiguities of Blinky Palermo's Wall works.

"This essay describes wall drawings and paintings made by German artist Blinky Palermo (born Peter Schwarze 1943 Leipzig-died 1977 Maldives). These works, no longer in existence, were bound to their architectural conditions, in art galleries, museums, temporary spaces for art or people’s homes. The form of these works varied from line drawings tracing architectural features to fields and figures of colour painted directly on walls that made viewers aware of the specific characteristics of envrionments, altering viewers' reading of them. The works were made within a practice of painting, and embedded within a phenomenological approach: their engagements with their settings activated those settings and their viewers’ relations to them. Although much has been made of Joseph Beuys’s influence on Palermo (he was a student of Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1963-1967), his work proposed a different role for art in society than Beuys: Palermo's work established his concerned with the viewer’s place in the world and accentuated consciousness as a vehicle for engagement therein."

Monday, 9 February 2015

Colour As I See It

^Dorothy Liebes, High Mass, circa 1943. Photo: American Craft Council

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Alexa Griffith Winton introduces us to the dyed world of Dorothy Liebes, who filled the gap left between the human need for tactile, sensual engagement with the surrounding environment, and the austere spaces created by post-war Modernist orthodoxy.

"Interiors magazine, in an obituary of textile designer and hand weaver Dorothy Liebes in 1972, called her, “the mother of the twentieth-century palette.” Liebes’ unusual and often bold use of colour, metallics, and unusual materials in her hand woven fabrics for the home helped shape the look of the post-war domestic interior in the United States. This essay looks at her approach to working with architects and interior designers within the context of her approach to colour, as well as some of Liebes’ many writings on colour published in both popular and design magazines."

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Patriotic Face

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Joanne McNeil explores the evolution of eyeshadow pigments and attitudes towards make-up.

"This essay considers the aesthetics of eyeshadow pigments. Decades ago, blue was as customary an eyeshadow colour as lipstick in red. This pairing was patriotic, rather than natural, trimming skin to match the the Union Jack or the American Flag. Now blue eyeshadow is considered tacky and dated. It is more commonly sold in neutral muted shades of mulberry, olive, and taupe. These “natural” shades are just as decorative, in no way resembling the colour of human skin. Eyeshadow is to the face what curtains are to the stage."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

In Colour

^Radiator and wall tiles in the entrance corridor of the Villa Muller, Prague, 2005, photo by Adam Nathaniel Furman

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Charles Holland of Ordinary Architecture explores Adolf Loos' use of colour in relation to his notions of material integrity and of his spatial technique of the Raumplan.

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

I Want to Invent this Colour

^Samsung Smartphone Homescreen

by Shumon Basar

I want to invent this colour. Lord knows all and he knows I'm trying. Ideally it would *just* happen, but not just like *Just Jared*. You see, I dreamt a dream in which I manage to index every colour I've ever seen -- acknowledged and not -- and from this archive that, as far as humans know, does not exist in time and in space, I concoct a single colour. It remains unnamed. Partly because I shun the pseudo poetics of 'Evening Lilac Shade' or 'Jam Surprise,' affronts to colour’s innate gaiety. And do not get me started on their numeric counterparts. Faceless strings of digits the spawn of industrialization. Soon comes the day, once again, when we name people, your children of the future, after strings of numbers. The ones their skin most closely resembles. I want to invent a colour that started in that dream -- and when you see it you will struggle to describe it too. I am not so immodest as to want to invent a new way of seeing. I leave that to the boys and girls of Silicon Valley and Seoul. I am writing to my old schoolteacher, Ms. Elceedee, a dowager now dwindling into senescence, who taunted me and told me I'd amount to nothing on this earth. I am writing to tell her about the colour I plan on inventing, most magnificent, beyond the limited scope of her punitive imagination, and that of my own heart's sight. The hues will erupt in unison. Swans will bow. Mountains blush. Search engines will wither. Prisoners will find peace. The only oversight in this otherwise most formidable plan is not knowing its fucking name. A name that people -- cultured, svelte, caring, fans of yoga -- can drop into their polite dinner conversations in and around the topics of sky, coats, skin, sex, simulations and vacation. I'm going to invent this amazing fucking colour bitch -- and by bitch I do not mean you, or any woman. I apologize, but, I just heard the phrase on a YouTube video that's been trending rather well of late. The sound was so crisp. It boomed from this TV, the size of a small state or large child, which, when switched on by retina eye recognition + NSA verification, the screen lit up in an array of colours only ever cited by the lucky few who venture North to the Aurora Borealis. That impossibly smooth landscape of vaporous colour bleeding seamlessly into each other. Perfect gradients. Cries and whispers. This colour, which cannot remain so doggedly without moniker forever, dear Lord, this colour is the one I want to invent.

Shumon Basar is a writer currently working on a book with Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist entitled The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, which will be published by Penguin in March 2015. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Blue is For Blondes

^Parents Magazine, July 1970

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Alexandra Lange explores the evolution of American children's colour-space in the 20th Century.

"Recent research on the history of children and color shows that the gender binary (blue is for boys, pink is for girls) is of postwar vintage. Color has been an indicator, in the pint-sized realm, of so many other things. Age, separating the wardrobe of white-dressed infants from the breeched in colored rompers or knickers. Interests, manifested in wallpapers with transportation scenes or Western stampedes. Program, with bright colors in the playroom and soothing hues in the bedroom. Complexion, red for brunettes and blue for blondes. This essay explores a few of those choices, which overlap and interweave rather than advancing toward a color-coded future."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

N.B the following note from the author:
"As my title suggests, the texts and images I examined seem to mean, by and large, "white children" when they say children. When talking about children and color, particularly in reference to complexion and appropriate historical themes, I expect there were different recommendations for non-white children historically, and indeed separate merchandising and advertising histories in the early 20th century. I did not find good references to such material in this first pass at the topic, but acknowledge the omission and plan to research further."

Monday, 3 November 2014

Your Gaze

^image from Tim Maughan's Instagram Feed

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Tim Maughan explores through prose the effect that digital consumption and the 'instagrammed' mediation of reality has on the timbre of our vision.

"Originally conceived by imagining what the world might look like if we could apply Instagram style colour filters to reality, 'Your gaze, brought to you by our sponsors' ended up being an exploration of how digital palettes alienate us from the true colours of reality, how the male gaze shades virtual worlds, and how social media has made us all the content between advertisements."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Pink Shirts & Pugin

^‘A little yellow drawing‐room’ painting by W.B.E.. Ranken from Basil Ionides, Colour and Interior Decoration, 1926

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Timothy Brittain-Catlin, author of "Bleak Houses: Disappointment and Failure in Architecture", writes about colour as an architectural weapon in the domestic environment.

"One doesn’t tend to think of interior designers as being natural terrorists, but in common with artists of other kinds they can deploy colours as if they were weapons, and they have a rich arsenal of materials with which to do it. A fully designed modern interior will plant colours into the house at different scales with different textures, in order to inflict a sequence of unavoidable colour combinations on the residents.

Architects should learn from this. Architecture is, so we think, a bigger thing than interior design, mainly because its elements are meant to be there for ever. This paper described how colour in architecture can be and has been deployed as a weapon against the unsuspecting."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Only Illusions and Nothing to Hide

^Marble floor tiling from the Capitoline Museum in Rome. According to the Capitoline Museum's website it's from the first half of the 4th century AD, recovered from the Esquiline Hill in Rome (Basilica lunii Bassi)

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Molly McCormick writes about the complex relationship between coloured marble and Roman Identity.

"Over the course of two centuries, Ancient Rome evolved from red brick backwater town to the coloured marble centre of the western world. However it didn't happen without a fight. To Pre-Imperial Senators, coloured marble was both alluring and dangerous: deathly cold, hotly debated. So how exactly did it become the covering of the Caput Mundi? For that, we look at a history of exoticism, misogyny, public relations and Imperial might that revolved around a seemingly innocuous material. One that was, eventually, essential to the culture of the eternal city. Both then and now."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Shades of Grey

^Student, Gerhard Richter, Oin on Canvas 1967 (source)

A Saturated Space contribution by Bernd Upmeyer, editor-in-chief of Monu magazine, that looks as Grey as a veil for the diversity of the full colour spectrum, an analogical symbol for a unity between multiplicities which he explores at the scale of publication, architecture and the city.

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Ermine It Ain't

^Boris Johnson visiting the Crossrail dig

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Will Wiles (Author, Freelance writer and contributing editor for Icon Magazine) writes about the paradoxical invisibility of the ubiquitous, socially ambiguous, and as he discovers politically revealing phenomenon of Hi-Viz clothing.

"Fluorescent high-visibility safety gear has risen to dominate the British workplace and street scene. It's now commonplace to observe that the bright stuff, intended to be seen, has been made invisible by its ubiquity. But hi-viz is loaded with complicated and often contradictory meanings, and is increasingly prey to right-wing political appropriation – as the uniform of “hardworking people” – and condemnation – as the sign of “health and safety” and petty officialdom run riot. It has much to say about work, class and authority in modern Britain. Perhaps it's time to make it visible again."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

It Ain’t Just (Black and) White: Thoughts on Colour in Architecture

^ James Turrell, the wolfsburg project at the kunstmuseum Germany

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Aaron Betsky writes an epic meander through the interrelationships between nature, the man-made, modernism and the local, the digital and the artistic, via the tones and hues of the spaces our bodies inhabit and which our architects design. Seeing the current design of spaces blending into a uniform gradient of smooth grays, he holds up some profound traditional, and excellent contemporary examples of inspiring alternative trajectories which defy the fashionable march into colourless entropy.

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Meeting Chroma the Great: Pantone, From Chemistry to Fashion and Back

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Margaret McCormick writes about that ever- fashionable, and seemingly ubiquitous colour-matching corporation, Pantone.

"From its humble beginnings in 1963, Pantone made itself essential to manufacturing on a global scale via the creation of the Pantone Matching System (PMS) ® which revolutionized colour reproduction and selection. Though in the wake of the digital age, the company has sought a new image to stay relevant. Now describing itself as the “authority” on colour, Pantone has cornered the market on what makes a colour cool, hip and fashionable. But how does “cool” happen? What makes Pantone the authority and how does this change in branding affect a greater discourse of design?

The answer is one of perception and precedent, marketing and manufacturing, chemistry and charisma."

Please either use the embedded reader below or click HERE to read the text.