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Colored Facades, Part 3

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Colored Facades, Part 3
Colored Facades, Part 3

Video: Colored Facades, Part 3

Video: Colored Facades, Part 3
Video: Sketching textures PART 3 2023, October

With the color design on and in buildings, the goals of decoration and illusion can also be pursued.

In addition to the aspects of symbolism and communication about color mentioned in the first episodes, other design intentions can be purely decorative. The use of old, historical techniques in a new guise is certainly a time phenomenon that we may smile about in 10 to 20 years, just as we look at the fads of the 1960s or 1970s with a smile. The background images of the moderators of the television studios bear witness to a kind of mania for using new, creative and striking techniques in the media too.

The beautiful glow of a painted door in the Villa d'Este in Tivoli.


These “decorative techniques” include, for example, glaze and spatula techniques, which have now found their market in the paint and varnish industry. However, these techniques focus on the interior design of rooms. In the facade design, examples of successful design are still very rare. On the one hand, this has to do with the special demands in the outdoor area, on the other hand, the designer is much more open to public criticism, which means that much more sensitivity and good cooperation between the architect and the color designer is required. In 1908, the Austrian architect Adolf Loos wrote an essay on the subject of "ornament and crime". He was considered one of the greatest opponents of decorating facades and interiors in the period of historicism and Art Nouveau and represented the pure and clear design language of the modern "Bauhaus architecture" of the new 20s.

Quote: “The lack of ornament results in a reduction in working hours and an increase in wages. The Chinese carver works sixteen hours, the American worker eight. If I pay as much for a smooth box as for an ornamented one, the difference in working hours belongs to the worker. And if there were no ornament at all - a condition that may occur in millennia - people would only have to work four instead of eight hours, because half of the work is still done on ornaments today. Ornament is wasted labor and therefore wasted health. It was always like that. But today it also means wasted material, and both mean wasted capital.”

But weren't exactly the ornamental statements in the facade design the ones that gave us such an abundance of styles in our culture and made our cityscapes so appealing? A good, cleanly executed “decorative” work can actually only be seen as an enrichment for our often too dreary, gray cityscapes.

A smoothing technique was carried out on the facades of this residential area in a small town in northern Italy.


The painted windows of historic northern Italian cities show us another function of color in the facade design. Due to the taxation on the number of windows in a house, the citizens of some cities were forced to use illusion painting in order not to disturb the harmony of the facade or cityscape. It is only at second glance and when you take a closer look that you notice that on some facades the windows are only painted and deceptively real due to the play of light and shadow in the painting technique used. The Baroque style in particular used this technique of illusion painting. Painted landscapes on wall surfaces, sky depictions in church domes or the continuation of parts of a building with the help of illusion are effective meansto change the appearance of rooms or streets, to make them appear larger, wider and more imposing. This "trompe l'oeil" - an eye-catcher - can be found today with funny examples in the design of fire walls in the big cities, but also in representative reception rooms or in our new wellness stamps. Here we like to indulge in the illusion of floating in another world.

Unusual, expressive corner and facade design on a residential and commercial building in Biberach

Naivety and expression

To a certain degree of appropriateness, it is certainly also permissible to approach the facade in a naive and expressive manner, even though many conservationists, color designers or architects simply do not speak the language when looking at such ensemble solutions.

Expression means expressing yourself by means of shape and / or color. Expressionists such as Wassily Kandinsky or Emil Nolde exemplified this style and art style at the beginning of the 20th century. But both are "visual artists". The implementations in form and color on the facade, the "Applied Art", we find again almost at the same time with Bruno Taut with his expressive color designs of the residential complexes in Berlin and Magdeburg. It is not for nothing that his settlements are popularly called "ink boxes or parrot settlements".

The question is to what extent a city or town can handle something like this. According to a court ruling published in the 1972 Stuttgarter Nachrichten, a Mannheim court sentenced a building owner who was accused by conservationists of increasing the contrast between the landscape and the building to ugliness through too vivid accents of color, “a muted color to stroke over it, which does not hurt the perception of a viewer who is open to aesthetic impressions but not particularly trained.”That is our case law. Similar court rulings are also known from the field of facade advertising, which are based on the “aesthetic perception of a so-called average viewer”.

Let's leave it as far as the goals and intentions of a design project.

In the following essays we turn to the color concept and consider which means and methods can be used for facade design.

Prof. Matthias Grönen, Esslingen University of Applied Sciences

Photos: Matthias Grönen, Jäger Lacke

Source: Malerblatt 04/2013

Façade design using sgraffito technology for a residential building in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.