Tales of Space and Color

The role of color in pursuits of architecture is a turbulent tale in western culture. In his book
Chromophobia, David Batchelor composes a collection of attributes assigned to color: as primitive,
superficial, subservient, inessential, other, supplementary, barbaric, infantile, cosmetic, and last but not
least, a fall from grace, a corruption of what’s underneath it. It’s easy to pinpoint the aesthetic effects
of this point of view in architectural history, like the pure white or pure material structures definitive
of Modernism. Though even today these terms aren’t far removed from descriptions of architectural
works instantly coined playful or post modern on social media for their bright or pastel hues. Even
though color is perhaps the first language ever learned, the first experience ever had, it is to this day a
marginalized and polarizing issue to be kept in check if to be taken seriously.

To speculate on the historical and contemporary impacts of color on architectural space and
perception, I propose a focused survey of Morocco, a locale just below the southernmost tip of Spain
that has served as a crossroad of culture and color for centuries. Despite occupying a minimal role in
my architectural education to this point, the region contains a rich and diverse body of architectural
works can be attributed to its complex history. Beginning with the native Berber populations of
antiquity, to the Islamic architecture of Muslim Arabs that followed, to the Hispano Moor’s crossing
with Spanish European influence in tow, and to its later occupation by the French in the early 20th
century. One of the dominant binaries drawn of color in Batchelor’s book exists between the Orient
and the West, and Morocco offers a unique geographic disposition in that distinction. The country
exists simultaneously as the recipient of significant influence from both sides of that binary, while
essentially belonging to neither.

A possible shortlist of sites and cities to be visited includes the Hasan II Mosque in
Casablanca, the Jardin Majorelle and Bahia Palace in Marrakesh, the Bou Inania Madrasa and Bab
Mansour Gate in Meknes, the University of Al Quaraouiyine in Fez, the Mohammed V Mausoleum
in Rabat, the red sand structures of Ouarzazate, and the brightly hued Chefchaouen. This final city is
of particular interest due to its over arching and elusive blueness, perhaps due to an influx of Jewish
people to the area in WWII, or for the color’s cooling properties, its reminiscence to the color of sky or
water, or simply to deter pesky mosquitoes. Today color is what most attracts tourists to the city, and
has elicited larger policy to extend and maintain its captivating and Instagramable blueness. That city
among the many other sites listed speak to an intricate role color has in both shaping and projecting
reality, a role that I’ve investigated throughout my studio work and intend to study further.