Another example of urban transformation through the use of colour is the Favela Painting project by the two Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahan (known as Haas&Hahn). After arriving in Rio de Janeiro in 2004, Koolhaas and Urhahan proposed a project to redevelop the Vila Cruzeiro favela, notorious for its high levels of crime. Exploiting their talent and creative use of colour, they transformed the slum into what has been universally acknowledged as an open-air art gallery, helping to foster a new sense of belonging amongst its inhabitants. The project was so successful that the work of the Favela Painting Foundation, set up to redevelop run-down areas, has since continued uninterruptedly. After Vila Cruzeiro, the two artists moved on to the favela of Santa Marta, where they engaged the local community in repainting the main square, Praça Cantão, in a rainbow of colours. The social change that this engendered in terms of collective pride spurred the inhabitants to continue their project and gradually transform the aesthetics of the entire favela. Colour played a similarly important role in the subsequent projects by Haas&Hahn, such as Germantown Avenue in north Philadelphia, which was brought back to life in 2012 in a brightly-coloured wall painting extending across 54 buildings. Another example is the Vila Rosa neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where the houses rebuilt after the 2010 earthquake were all repainted according to a colour scheme inspired by the bright local colours and chosen in consultation with the individual owners, thereby creating a unifying, linking effect between the buildings.
In cities, colour can be used to create a connection with tradition or bring renewal and change; it is evocation and surprise, integration or mimicry; it is a bearer of beauty and a fundamental ingredient of social behaviour.
Shifting our attention from artistic projects to architectural redevelopment, we find that colour continues to play a key role in countless projects.
A multicolour vision certainly underpins the revamping project of the Santa Caterina market in Barcelona in 2005 by Studio Miralles Tagliabue EMBT, with its soft, dynamic roof made of brightly coloured ceramic scales, like a curtain billowing in the wind. The architects could hardly fail to take account of the vital, multisensorial space in which they were called on to work or of the architectural context of the square. This old, sleepy heart of the La Ribera neighbourhood was brought back to life, triggering a process of renovation of the surrounding rundown buildings.
In one of the most emblematic projects of this kind, Renzo Piano Building Workshop Architects used colour as a tool for injecting new life into the Central Saint Giles area in London in 2010. The original building was a large, opaque monolithic volume located in a strategic position within London’s urban
fabric. The urban regeneration project proposed a large volume broken up by a series of plastic cuts. The multifunctional complex is thus perceived as a composition of individual parts, each of which is identified by a different façade colour. Colour creates diversification, as well as order and completeness, and becomes the leitmotif of the entire architectural composition. Renzo Piano loves to use word “surprise”, which he sees as an antidote to the monotony of urban spaces. He teaches us that buildings must not take possession of the site in which they are located, but “give the road back what it deserves”. In this respect, colour is the response of an architecture that dialogues with and is open to the collective social space: colour is the building’s response to “the miraculous organism that is the city, where everything must be based on participation, a sense of belonging and urbanity”