For almost 20 winters starting in 1999, Starbucks red cups became the announcement that winter had finally arrived. The red cups appeared in the hands of Christmas shoppers at the mall, on conference tables during Friday office meetings, and in the hands of those standing in line to ice skate at the seasonal rink. Their mere presence in the stores automatically marked the arrival of the joyous and festive season.
This is just one example of how color can impact our emotions, our memories and even our sense of familiarity. This same familiarity also works in architecture. Think about some of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Why do they stick out? And what’s the first thing you remember about them? For many, it’s simply the colors of the structure.
- The Blue Roofs of Santorini, Greece – Nothing paints a picture of a dream luxury vacation than images of the blue domed roofs of the churches in Santorini. Framed by blue skies and the nearby blue sea water, this unique architecture in Santorini is characterized by two main features — domed roofs and the caves by which homes have been built. And while there are cliff top villages in other parts of the world, the presence of the blue roofs in Santorini quickly catches the eye of anyone who has ever seen a picture of the village.
- The Painted Ladies of San Francisco, California – When you think of the city of San Francisco, there are two images that come to mind.The Golden Gate Bridge and the painted ladies in San Francisco’s Alamo Square. While the city is filled with Victorian style homes, this block of homes has become synonymous with the city’s identity to the different cultures around the world since the 1960s.To accentuate that trademark Victorian architecture, the homes continue to be painted three distinct colors to highlight the details.
- The Mad Colored Houses of Burano in Italy – Located 40 minutes away from Venice by boat, the fishing village of Burano dates back to Roman time. The homes, which line the canals that flow through the village, were said to be owned by fishermen who began painting their homes bright colors to recognize them through the fog when they returned to the village. Even today, the colors continue to be an important part of its identity setting it apart from the rest of Venice, which is already recognized for its unique architecture.
- St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow, Russia – Not to be mistaken with the pink building on Moscow’s Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral has a vivid and colorful exterior, recognized by most even if they don’t know the building by name. The building was built in the 1500s by Ivan the Terrible, the first Tsar of Russia and has stood witness to much of Russia’s colorful history. While the story behind who designed the building remains a mystery, the colorful facade was added 200 years after its initial completion. The mix of red, white and gold colors with blue and green highlights is said to reflect Russia’s attitude towards color during the 1800s. Today, the cathedral is Russia’s most recognizable structure featured in souvenir snow globes, t-shirts and of course, keychains.
- The Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki Hawaii – Waikiki Beach has always conjured up images of surfers and hula dancers enjoying the Hawaiian sun with the recognizable Diamond Head in the background and an iconic pink hotel resort in the forefront. That pink hotel is the Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki and was designed in a Spanish-Moorish style, popular during the 1920s. Since it opened its doors in 1927, it has earned its spot in Waikiki’s history and in postcards featuring the image of this popular vacation destination.
So how powerful is color in its architecture? As these examples illustrate, color can be the identifying mark to stand out from the crowd. And in architecture that might be the only thing you need.