The Colour Real

16 Jan

Work & Play in Coloured Glass

By Sylvia O'Brien

Imagine wearing a pair of glasses that change colour all the time, shifting perception & stimulating the mind. Sounds like fun, yes?

This month I wanted to highlight two buildings that do just that. The first one is the New Biochemistry Building at Oxford University in England. (Photo's by Quintin Lake


Oxford biochemistry, Hawkins Brown


Paul Klee, Fire in the eveningThis RIBA & WAN award winner was designed by Hawkins Brown , a London based architectural firm. The aesthetic of the exterior of this well-thought-out structure seems to be strongly influenced by the Paul Klee painting ' Fire in the Evening' (1929). The laminated glass fins intersect with the curtain wall, washing the interior with pools of colour & at certain times of day these fins reflect washes of coloured light & shadow onto the surrounding streets. These ever shifting pools of colour reflection create an elusive colour story & a visual fantasy amid the historically traditional architecture of the Oxford campus, which speaks to this building's depiction of forward movement in science. The psychology of this fa├žade is about what colour, form & material represents to the science world. Now seemingly random shifting patterns stimulate idea generation. It represents independent thought, transparency & community.

The interior space is quite open, opposite to the antiquated ways of secrecy in science & research. With all offices & labs on the external walls, the centre is a carefully orchestrated open concept to promote communication amoung the creative inhabitants. The new belief is " the secret to success apparently lies, not in the laboratories, but in the lunchroom" where interaction is nurtured & breakthroughs gel.

Another example of work & play in coloured glass is 'Your Rainbow Panorama' in Arhus, Denmark


Your Rainbow Panoramic, Aros Museum of Art

 (Photo above by Quintin Lake)

This rainbow sequenced glass walkway & viewing platform sits on top of the ARoS Museum of Art is essentially an artpiece itself. The architect, Olafur Eliasson is incorporating the whole city in this structure. His intention is to blur the lines between contemporary art & architecture, & indeed, if you look at his website ( you'll see he actually is an artist. To be inside this structure is to experience the city through a yellow, orange, red, purple, blue or green filter, depending on the direction you're looking. As colour is a sensory perception I expect it's very therapeutic to walk around this circle a few times. Some visitors say it's like 'walking in a rainbow'. Needless to say, it's exterior presence adds excitement to the skyline of this low-rise city & creates a distinctive landmark

What these two buildings have in common is the blending of the 'in & out' with coloured glass panels, creating a strong statement in both cases. Their inherent properties influence the surroundings as well as the interiors.. Globalization is allowing this trend toward multi-colour to happen. People want fresh & new. They want stimulation & all the wonderful things colour brings to the table. Now all we need is for someone to invent those colour changing glasses!



This article was contributed by Sylvia O'Brien, Creative Director of Colour Theory, a Toronto (Canada) based commercial colour & design firm.

Her motto is "Colour...get it right the first time ".

She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through

Share on Myspace
Monthly newsletter

Color Objects encourages you to get a better eye and appreciation for colors and characters. To get a special selection of pics and info for you, we find designers and artists that make colorful work from all over the world. There's a lot of character in colors, and having a closer look will change your view of the world and people around you. So we share a host of pics and info from design, art, cultures and the natural world. All about colors.

Copyright Color Objects. All rights reserved.

Join Our Newsletter

Join our newsletter to get short monthly updates. You'll get a confirmation email, check your spam folder if you don't find it in your inbox.