Using Colour in Urban Landscapes
Date published 13 February 2015
When people think of modern day urban spaces in large cities, some of us still have a mental image of dull, grey scenes that can look a little sad or depressing.
With the wealth of modern street furniture available nowadays there is no reason for this to be the case. Urban landscapes can look fantastic at as well as be a pleasure to sit, socialise, or play in.
Using colour to communicate emotion
Colours are powerful communication tools and can be used to influence mood and to provoke reactions in people.
Anyone who doubts this needs only to look at a set of traffic lights – a perfect example of colours with important meanings in a public place.
Within urban street environments, colours have important relevance too. In the case of street furniture, red can be used to denote excitement, urgency, and romance; green can bring a refreshing and relaxing look; brown adds elegance and stability; purple can be dramatic and motivational ; and yellow denotes happiness and optimism.
Think of park benches being painted green or brown – this is not only to blend in with the background.
Guidelines for using colour outdoors
As well as conveying emotion, colours bring other subtle meanings to urban landscapes.
Contrast of colour can be used to great effect: a high contrast can enhance the formality of a landscape and low contrast has soothing qualities; large surfaces usually make paint look lighter and colour can be used to emphasize architectural details, where particular features are outlined with an ‘accent’ colour that contrasts with the background.
In some cases, a colour palette has been used and recognised over a long period of time, and has become an important part of the local culture; the colour becomes symbolic.
A good example of a city having a distinctive identity due to a particular colour is the red buses, phone boxes and post boxes in London. Here, these everyday objects in urban environments have achieved iconic status.
When choosing colours for street furniture, its purpose needs to be considered carefully: are you looking to provoke emotion or to highlight architectural features? Do you want to accentuate the surrounding natural landscape? Or do you want to convey the character of surrounding buildings?
Using street furniture in a functional way like this involves an in-depth understanding of what colour can bring to an urban scene.
Need help with selecting the right colours to achieve your intended purpose? As an innovative and contemporary supplier of high quality street furniture, the team at Urban Effects is experienced in urban design. We supply colourful products in a number of versatile, robust and unique finishes to enliven outdoor environments.