4 / 2019 - Design

Today, design is on everyone’s lips. But what is its meaning in architecture and the related discourses?

In the most famous art school of the last century, Bauhaus, architecture, design and art functioned as one. The issue delves into Bauhaus ideology from contemporary viewpoint and examines the celebrations if the Bauhaus centennial in Germany. The issue brings together projects and phenomena at the intersection of architecture and design. Landscape architect Janne Saario talks about skateparks as a design task, whereas Kyrö Distillery barrel storage required careful design on an exceptionally detailed scale in order to achieve the concrete surface reminiscent of wood. Hybrid building Kruunuparkki 5 is an example of everyday design and architecture in a residential area.

The issue also showcases spaces and places of contemporary design, including Garden, a shopping centre concept for Finnish fashion brands and Arabia Campus of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences for degree programmes in the field of culture and creative industries. New interpretations and valuations of older design are brought up in the renovation of Raili and Reima Pietilä’s Finnish Embassy in New Delhi. The issue also touches upon the architecture of Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto through Jari Jetsonen’s photography exhibition and showcases an intervention by Anna and Eugeni Bach on the iconic Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. Eventually, the issue poses a question of what kind of an imprint the designers’ activities will leave behind and what kind of objectives are they serving?  


Nine years ago the Finnish Architectural Review focused on “Colour”. In the 3/2010 issue, Jorma Mukala wrote about the new trend of bright colours which had landed in Finland, and Harald Arnkil pondered the avoidance of colour in Finnish architecture.

The change in our urban colourscape has been bafflingly fast. Colour has been utilised in the recent buildings either over-abundantly or almost not at all. The 1990s blue and green facades seem feeble compared to today’s purple and lime. Quite a few dark and even nearly black buildings rely on material-based colour shemes. In new housing, a limited colour scale gives neighbourhood its identity: In Helsinki, for example, Aurinkolahti is yellow, white and terracotta, while Viikinmäki has all the shades of grey and Kalasatama is associated with dark brick. Kivistö in Vantaa and Vuores in Tampere are known for vivid colour combinations and art.

As architectural processes change, designers are faced with new colour-related challenges. Cities are more densely built, so decisions on colours and materials in infill construction must be made. Will colour be used to connect the new with the existing or to create something new? Increasingly popular wooden apartment blocks require new colour choices: so far, the trend has been to leave the natural wood in view or to use black, grey or brown tones. Colours in high-rise construction affect the entire cityscape. The white, grey and colourful tower blocks look different against the sky at different times

Light, colour, material and space together create the architectural experience of colour. Most light sources in cities have been upgraded into LED lamps that emit a high amount of light with little energy. The quality and temperature of the light and the lighting of facades have barely been discussed. Integrating lighting design in urban planning is necessary if we want to avoid cold, flashing, bright and glaring city lights.

New materials and surface treatments allow new exploration of colour in the built environment. Colours can, however, be unpredictable. Facade colouration is affected by UV radiation and weather differently depending on the material. An intense orange or lime used throughout a building or a neighbourhood on different materials may in a few years’ time turn into a collection of only approximately similar colours. The climate is changing, so should designers work closer together with the construction materials industry?

Architects’ colour choices affect our environment well into the future. It is time we rethink the terms in which we talk about colour design in architecture. We currently have plenty of opportunities to explore shades and nuances that are to be found between the brighly-coloured and the minimalist. ↙


Saara Pyykkö is a colour researcher, designer and teacher currently working on her doctoral thesis on the colour design of new neighbourhoods at Aalto University. She is the President of the Finnish Colour Association. 

Näköislehti: Site Logic