13th November 2017

'The color of your city' by Jessica Furseth, 8th November 2017, Curbed

On this Curbed article Jessica Furseth seeks Laura’s expertise on colour:

<…Laura Carrara-Cagni, a director at Edward Williams Architects in London, says that all towns begin with zero-kilometer material availability: “It starts from, ‘I’ve got this material here, I am using it, and that naturally becomes our identity.’” Then, as time passes and the town develops, the different social layers start to assert themselves and new trends and traditions are born. London may have started with all that yellowbrick, but as air pollution darkened the stone and people wanted something a little less somber, they started importing redbrick to spruce things up a bit, or they added a whitewash render to the brick. “Other people then see this kind of detailing and copy it. That’s how you get neighborhoods with different identities,” says Carrara-Cagni.

You could call these changes the whims of fashion, but as Carrara-Cagni points out, they become part of the culture, and they’re ingrained in how communities grow. “I’ve recently been in Central Asia and looked into the history of the Silk Road. As soon as the transportation between China and Europe was established, the fact that materials were traveling immediately disrupted the very local nature of [building and color traditions].”

This kind of detachment from history can create some jarring results, as seen in cities like Dubai or Doha that have sprung up seemingly overnight. “Astana in Kazakhstan is another city that hasn’t grown in layers like London has,” says Carrara-Cagni. “It appears as if someone looked around the world for buildings they liked and said, ‘I want one of those, one of those, and one of those.’ The city has some incredibly wacky buildings with random colors. It’s [done] in order to stand out from the Russian-inspired plain palette, but it struggles to come together harmoniously.”

This is why Carrara-Cagni is a big fan of gray—the color often criticized as an overused, boring choice in modern cities. It’s overused because it works. “It’s the combination of two complementary colors, so to the eye, gray is a harmony color,” she says. “It’s peaceful. Over gray, you can put any color and it will shine.” When you’re creating something new in an old city where space is at a premium, a color that knows how to get along well with others will be soothing to the eye…>

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