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.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Colour Purple in Ancient Rome

^Purple Blood, by Kurt Cobain

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Mark Bradley tells the story of Roman attitudes to authenticity and wealth through the colour purple...

Purple was, in a number of ways, the most important colour of classical antiquity. It was the colour of one of the fastest and most expensive dyes available to Rome, and for the imaginative Roman observer it could also describe the sea, blood, flowers, gems and marbles, even swans and rainbows. During the Roman Empire, it became increasingly associated with imperial authority, and politicians, poets and historians developed a sophisticated and versatile language for distinguishing and describing the various shades and patterns of purple that were available. This paper explores how one colour evolved as a marker of political, social and religious authority from the early Empire through to late antiquity, and discusses its development as an aesthetic category that qualified and distinguished a wide range of objects and phenomena. By examining the transformation of purple in ancient Rome, this paper puts to the test the axiom that the senses, and the way they are used, are shaped by the social and cultural preoccupations of the time.

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

Monday, 14 April 2014

Ruby Slippers: A Journey with Colour in the Land of Oz

^illustration by W.W. Denslow, 1900

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Hillary Bretcko writes about colour in the Land of Oz, and by extension, our cities through the lens of imagination...

"First published in 1900, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was revolutionary in its treatment of fictional worlds and the book as an object inherently tied the the story. This investigation into Dorothy's tale traces the use of colour throughout the book as it relates to themes of place, identity, artificiality, and perception as well as how the Wizard's City of Emeralds parallels our contemporary understanding of the global City."

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

Monday, 10 March 2014

Two Photographies

^RMIT Swanston Building by Lyons Architects, Melbourne  <source>

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Douglas Murphy writes about colour in architectural photography...

"The new media world of design blogs and other platforms have changed the way that architectural photography is experienced, and a new generation of photographers have been developing a new digital aesthetic for depicting architecture. This essay discusses the strange experience of seeing canonical buildings of the modern period portrayed in a different photographic style to convention, and discusses some of the links between the development of late 20th century architectural styles and changes in the conventions photographic depiction, focusing primarily of the introduction and transition to colour photography within architectural publishing."

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

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Colour as Synaesthetic Experience in Antiquity

^ "The Wine-Dark Sea" by Randall Stoltzfus (2004)

Dr Mark Bradley writes for us about the broad range of allusive meanings and sensory references mixed up in the delightfully metaphoric & inconstant nature of colour description in the ancient world.

"Colour is about more than just lightwaves hitting the retina. In ancient philosophical circles, colour was often described as the primary object of vision: it was the external ‘skin’ that existed at the surface of an object, and what made the object visible or ‘sensible’ to a viewer. And yet, Greek and Roman literature is riddled with examples of colour categories that do not make sense simply in visual terms: from Homer’s ‘wine-dark sea’ to ‘whey-coloured’ skin in ancient medicine, from blushing faces to the honey-coloured hair and marbled skin of coveted girls in Augustan elegy, and from the saffron garments of decadent easterners to the expensive fishy-smelling purple robes of the late-antique imperial court, colours appealed not just to sight, but also to smell, touch and taste. This essay suggests that colours in pre-modern societies such as Greece and Rome, because of their close ties to specific objects and phenomena (rather than just parts of the spectrum), were frequently synaesthetic experiences which appealed to multiple senses and mobilized more than just eyesight. Colour was a basic unit of sensory information through which ancients experienced and evaluated the world around them, and the collaboration of the senses in these experiences suggests an approach to perception, knowledge and understanding that could be very different from that employed in the modern west."

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

Reproduced with the permission of Acumen Publishing from S. Butler and A. Purves (eds) (2013) Synaesthesia and the Ancient Senses (‘The Senses in Antiquity’ series, volume I). Durham: Acumen. See

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Saturated Space V: The Drama of Colour

Thanks to everyone who came to our fifth event at the AA on the 10th February 2014, marking the second anniversary of much colourful discourse about Architecture, Urbanism and the Arts.
Please see below for the online versions of the lectures that were given that day, and click HERE for the rest of the online lectures on our Vimeo channel.

Above, Juliet Rufford on Performance Studies & the Uses of Theatricality

Above, Ivana Wingham on the Roman Baroque & Illusion

Above, Brian Hatton on Decoration Vs Ornament

Above, Antoni Malinowski on the Theatricality of Colour & Line

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Out of the Blue and Into the Pink

^Still from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" 1953, 20th Century Fox (source)

Exclusively for Saturated Space, Courtney Coffman writes about the 'colour that shall not be named', the luminous prancing preening painted fleshy omnipresent elephant in architecture's proverbially very white, abstracted and empty room...

"Culturally known as the most kitsch and taboo colour, pink has been making a recent appearance in contemporary architecture. At present, the history of pink in its use in architecture and art has been theorized and recognized by few, yet the use of pink elicits modalities of affect. Moving beyond the confines of domesticity and feminine spaces, pink may be claiming new disciplinary territories but there remains a self-consciousness as many practitioners restrict its application to interior-specific conditions. Yet, when pink does move into an exterior condition, the project remains domestic in scale. From book covers, installations, interiors, pop-up shelters and objects du jour, it seems fitting that pink is saturating contemporary discourse as the colour itself oscillates between natural and artificial, flesh and mechanization, innocence and sexuality. More definitive than the themes pink embodies is the specific hue of pink in contemporary work: magenta. Perhaps magenta is the new-and-improved cathode ray blue, despite its appropriation to novelty and popular culture."

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