Colour – elevating the senses

Colour can transform the most corporate of buildings into something quite magical. However, whether it’s used on walls, for carpets or furniture, there’s always a need to provide a sense of balance. In some instances, colour provides a sense of drama or even tells a story and forms an integral part of the design process.

Architect Antony Martin, director of MRTN Architects, used colour extensively for an office fit-out in Melbourne’s CBD. Designed for a healthcare company that produces websites and films, the pitch of colour is intense. Blues and greens feature strongly on the office walls, while some of the furniture, including the primary trestle-style workstation, is made from bright red laminate. MRTN Architects also selected a dark blue carpet for the office floor. Red and orange armchairs and lounges further punctate the office with colour. “As my clients work in the healthcare industry, I took the colour cues from surgical gowns,” says Martin. “This green blue hue normalises the rods in a surgeon’s eye while working under bright lights,” he adds.

 

Office by MRTN Architects. Image Credit: Nic Granleese.

Martin also used colour and bold graphics on the walls of the office, combining the company’s logo with graphic blue-and-white stripes. “Staff are regularly look at computers so using colour provides some relief,” says Martin, who feels that colour makes spaces more memorable and offers an element of surprise after walking through a fairly blank corridor.

Meeting room by MRTN Architects. Image Credit: Nic Granleese.

Deb Ryan, Principal with McBride Charles Ryan (MCR) is a leader in the design industry when it comes to the use of colour. MCR’s Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC), designed with STHDI, features an impressive curvaceous façade with ‘tentacles’ of purple glass. “The purple branches across the façade are a reference to the convergence and exchange of ideas in unlocking new understandings in the treatment of cancer,” says Ryan, who regularly uses purple in MCR’s designs. “Purple was first discovered by organic chemists centuries ago. It was an extremely difficult colour to produce and normally only worn by royalty,” she adds. Colour also features strongly in the interior of the VCCC. Black structural columns in the dramatic foyer are complemented by fuschia furniture, along with accents of other colours such as purple and hues of green capturing the Australian native bush. Spotted gum used in the joinery also brings its own tonality in the scheme. Purple was also used for the practice’s award-winning Quay apartments at Docklands, developed by MAB Corporation. In this instance, the use of purple pays homage to the suffragettes, who wore purple in their quest for equality at the turn of the 20th century.

The Quays Appartments by MCR. Image Credit: Diana Snape.

MCR’s ‘Klein Bottle’ house on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, which received numerous awards including a Dulux Colour Award, appears relatively ‘sedate’ in its use of colour. However, on closer inspection of the coastal home reveals eight different shades of white. Accents of black in the fibrocement cladding, accentuate the folds in the façade. “We wanted to accentuate the origami form of the beach house,” says Ryan. Past the front door, there’s a welcoming bright red carpet on the stairs together with a vibrant red wall that wraps around the staircase/lightwell. “You can create poetry in buildings by using colour. Importantly, it can also tell a story, as with the VCCC,” she adds.

The super clinic at Wyndham Vale by architect John Henry appears relatively monochromatic at first glance. Monumental in its almost brutalist concrete form, the doors open to a lobby ablaze with colour. Designed as a clinic for doctors, dental surgeons and physiotherapists, the super clinic features pristine white walls juxtaposed with vibrant carpet-tiled floors. Bands of bright blue and green stripes are broken up with felt carpet tiles in ‘splashes’ of red, blue and yellow. “Colour animates the interior and provides a welcoming gesture for patients and staff,” says Henry, who feels that many corporate buildings can be too austere and foreboding. “Colour elevates the senses, but there always has to be a balance,” adds Henry.

MRTN Architects can be contacted on 9329 4145 or at mrtn.com.au
MCR can be reached on 9510 1006 or at mcbridecharlesryan.com.au
Architect John Henry can be contacted on 9432 0648 or at johnhenryarchitects.com.au

About the Author: Stephen Crafti

Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990s and is a regular contributor to DesignBUILD. Inspired by the architecture around him in Melbourne, Australia, he was keen to share the things he saw, whether buildings, furniture, fashion or other stunning pieces of contemporary design. After many years of writing about his favourite things, and with numerous books and articles behind him, Crafti still delights in discovering and promoting exhilarating design. He is a regular contributor to several Australian newspapers and local and international design magazines.

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