Architecture, science and colour in Britain 1945-1976
The development of a scientific theory of colour and of standardized colour ranges by a small group of modernist architects is a fascinating but Little-known episode of post-war British architectural history. In many articles, official publications, and conferences, and from within key organizations of the building industry, these architects promoted a theory of colour selection and application based on seemingly 'functional' and 'rational' criteria such as the 'aesthetic of the structure', the character of the building and its occupants, and the improvement of lighting and vision. Architects were also concerned with the standardization of colour, leading, from 1955 until the late 1970s, to farchitectural' ranges responding to 'functional' needs being published as official British Standards. Cotour in modern architecture has only recently become the subject of critical historical studies. Its belated reassessment by historians is, in part-, related to modernism's own rejection of cotour, which was seen to belong to the transient and decadent phenomena of decoration and fashion. Yet, many modernist architects persisted in thinking about and applying colour in their buildings. This thesis explores some of the different and complex meanings of colour as well as the ambivalent role of science in post-war British architecture. It shows that the scientization and standardization of colour after the war was in part an attempt by architects to maintain and make I acceptable a new decorative theory and practice of colour in face of the dominant ideology of science promoted by the Welfare State, and of the modernist hostility to decoration. It shows that colour was then such an attractive subject for architects because it allowed them to appear as scientific experts but at the same time, retain control over architectural practice by asserting the primacy of their mysterious aesthetic abilities.