Adding colour to cities and life

  • Living
  • Tuesday, 28 Oct 2014

The Malacca Youth Museum and Art Gallery, along with the Stadthuys building, were repainted by AkzoNobel as part of heritage preservation efforts under the companys Human Cities Initiative. – Photo from AkzoNobel

Besides introducing next year’s colour, the Colour Futures event discussed making cities more ‘human’, vibrant and resilient.

IT’S official. The colour of the year for 2015 is ... drum roll, please ... copper orange.

It seems that metallic colour tones are playing an increasingly important role in modern design. A warmer palette, comprising pinks, reds and oranges, seems to be emerging, replacing blue and green hues. Specifically, research points towards copper orange, a soft, warm tone that blends well with pastels, earth tones and also metallics, as a “paint translation of this trend”.

The research results were announced at the Colour Futures 2015 event held in Singapore late last month, just before the three-day World Architecture Festival 2014 (WAF) there.

Leading global paints and coating company AkzoNobel, the Dutch corporation that carries Dulux as one of its many products, is the headline partner for the WAF as well as the organiser of the annual Colour Futures event. A group of Malaysian media was invited by AkzoNobel to attend the event and the festival.

As a key player of colour, the company keeps tabs on emerging social, economic and design trends around the world in deciding the colour of the year.

Once a year, its Global Aesthetic Centre meets with a group of independent, international creative experts from colour, design, architecture and fashion backgrounds to discuss how trends and colour palettes will develop and evolve over the coming year. They delve into local and international sources ranging from fine art, technology, design, nature, architecture, fashion, music to popular culture.

Big nature  small me: This theme’s colour palette ‘captures the sun-scorched feel of the Arizona desert, vast and intimidating yet strikingly beautiful’. It is characterised by rich earth tones of sepia, ochre, sienna and baked clay. — Photos from AkzoNobel

“Being in the paint industry, a common question people ask is what’s the most popular colour now or what’s the colour trend this year. Therefore, 12 years ago, we set out to find the colours that are coming out the following year,” said Jeremy Rowe, AkzoNobel’s managing director for decorative paints (South-East and South Asia), at the launch.

“So it’s never about inventing a new trend. This metallic type of orange is part of a new emerging trend,” he explained.

Unseen spaces: This theme’s effect is created by using dark and light shades together to give a three-dimensional illusion. This palette plays around with three different shades — blue grey, khaki, and neutral pink — to create the desired results.

The past three years have seen crimson (2012), indigo blue (2013) and teal (2014) as colours of the year.

“In the last few years, colours have been deeper. In those years, people were more uncertain about the economy. This time, we feel that consumer confidence is slowly increasing, and people are a little more optimistic,” said Rowe, adding that copper orange is not a “pumped up” orange but a reasonably relaxed colour.

The company’s research also shows that the prevailing mood for 2015 is finding that little extra thing that makes a difference in our lives. Hence, the theme of Colour Futures 2015 is “Every day +”.

Friendly barter: This palette is about ‘new combinations and an eclectic approach to problem solving’. Berry-toned pinks and reds mix with lime and orange to create an added richness to ochre, rich brown and warm grey. Large blocks of colours that complement each other can also be applied to both interiors and exteriors.

“We are finding original and subtle ways to add colour to lives, with a renewed emphasis on developing a more caring and sharing environment for all.

“And sustainability is now a requirement rather than a preference, and it needs to be backed up by genuine commitment.

The Malacca Youth Museum and Art Gallery, along with the Stadthuys building, were repainted by AkzoNobel as part of heritage preservation efforts under the companys Human Cities Initiative. – Photo from AkzoNobel

“The concept of the theme is really to look at what we already have and finding special ways celebrate it, to look for that something extra in everyday life,” said Rowe.

On top of a colour of the year, Colour Futures also reveals five colour themes each year. For 2015, they are “Big nature + small me”; “Layer + Layer”; “+Unseen spaces”; “Him + her”; and “Friendly barter+”. (See photos for explanations and examples of the themes.)

At the festival, representatives from established skincare brand Shu Uemura also showed the media how different makeup styles can be achieved with orange-toned makeup products while celebrity stylist Jerome Awasthi demonstrated ways to incorporate copper orange into one’s wardrobe for both men and women. In addition, different painting techniques, colour schemes, and home decor tips were shared by Li Ziqi, director of Oats, a cross-disciplinary design company based in Singapore.

In addition to forecasting the colour of the year, AkzoNobel also believes in improving and energising urban communities. In June this year, the company launched its Human Cities Initiative that helps urban cities become more colourful, vibrant, sustainable, and resilient.

Specifically, it aims to create more “human” urban environments by adding colour to the interior and exterior of buildings in order to promote six key aspects: colour, heritage, transport, education, sport, and sustainability.

Firstly, the initiative advocates that cities should be more colourful. Colour is believed to have a positive effect on health and well-being, thus helping to energise communities and give people a real sense of place, space and identity.

“Colour also affects moods,” said Rowe during a talk held at the Festival.

“There is nothing worse than a grey city. As cities continue to grow and expand, we have to ensure that they remain exciting and vibrant, and one simple way is to make them more colourful.”

Secondly, the initiative also spells out that urban heritage is something that needs to be embraced: “A city’s urban heritage represents a collective identity, and should be preserved in order to make the past a part of the future,” explained Rowe.

AkzoNobel is involved in the restoration of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and various Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) projects.

Some examples of the company’s work in South-East Asia include the core zone in one of Malaysia’s Unesco World Heritage Site cities, Malacca (the other heritage city is George Town); the Historical Museum, Indochina University, and Phuc Xa village in Hanoi; the Fatahillah Museum (Jakarta History Museum) in Jakarta, and the Balai Pemuda in Surabaya, Indonesia.

Goh Cheok Weng, AkzoNobel decorative paints (South-East and South Asia) general manager for projects, said painting the Stadthuys, one of the buildings in Malacca’s core heritage zone, is a 10-year project that began in 2009. The company allocated the first five years to finishing the first round of painting, while the remaining years are allocated for any repainting required. The paint is provided by the company pro bono.

Goh added that the company is also currently involved in painting the facades of old shoplots along Jalan Dato’ Bandar Tunggal in Seremban. (Costs are divided among the owners, the State Government, and AkzoNobel.)

The third point in the Human Cities Initiative is that “people must connect to make cities come alive”, and for this to happen, effective transportation infrastructure in and between cities is vital.

The fourth point is about ensuring that cities place education at the top of their agendas; AkzoNobel supports and invests in the education of young people around the world.

The Human Cities Initiative also promotes public spaces for urban dwellers in the push for a healthier lifestyle, the fifth point. The company works with the Cruyff Foundation (established in 1997 by former national Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff) in introducing street football in an effort to involve children in a meaningful activity.

“Most planners struggle with the pressure to build buildings but people need parks and lakes to be out there to exercise, play and rest,” said Rowe.

The last aspect of the Initiative states that “urban design must consider climate change”.AkzoNobel adopts the Planet Possible strategy, which entails working closely with customers and suppliers to develop more sustainable solutions for the built environment, including areas of volatile organic compound reduction, durability, protection, safety, and well-being.

Last month, the company also made a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative (begun in 2005 by former US President Bill Clinton to help the underserved across the globe) and established a partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, a programme pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. The programme asks cities to nominate themselves onto list of cities to become more resilient and the foundation will then support the cities selected.

“With the rapid rural-city migration, cities are being developed at a fast pace and it is crucial to build resilience into these cities,” said Rowe, adding that AkzoNobel will provide consultation, technical expertise, and also work directly with four cities in resilience projects.

Is there a good example of a resilient or livable city at present?

“An example of far-sighted urban planning is perhaps Singapore.

“For example, aerial shots of Singapore now show that there are more green areas compared to 10 years ago.

“Beijing’s public spaces and how they encourage people to use them to exercise in and so on is also marvellous.

“However, not one single city has every element of a perfect city. It takes many years to create a city that is resilient, livable, and has good use of public spaces,” said Rowe.

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