March 4, 2021

Daily Scot – Colour in Our Social Housing

Scot has lamented (for years!) the lack of colour in our architecture. (Here’s an explanation from a PT post in 2014:

… our most revered architect Arthur Erickson (believed) that muted colours were an appropriate response to our northwest-coast climate, that concrete was “the marble of our times,” (and so) established an aesthetic norm for the profession.

Scot did a four-part series on colour in Seattle, starting here, and has recently noticed where colour is embraced in our architecture: social housing.  A quick survey of recent developments:


He asks: “Why do we have to rely on our social housing developments to provide the colour on our highrise buildings?”


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  1. Are there fewer design hoops for social housing to jump through? Maybe there’s less henpecking from the Design Review Committee.

    1. I think that’s because social housing (or rentals) don’t have to appeal to purchasers the way that market condos do. Market condos seem to end up trying to appeal to a broad range of purchasers – so the colours are whittled down to the least objectionable (i.e. boring).
      Plus, the UDP doesn’t seem to like dark colours as there are frequently comments to “lighten” or “warm-up” the colour palette. A few recent towers have managed to include darker glass (i.e. Grosvenor Pacific, 8X on the Park, The Smithe), but other lighter coloured elements in the design seem to muddle them (i.e. at The Smithe).

      For the Charleson (which has the massive mural at Richards & Pacific), I’ll bet that raised a bunch of eyebrows among purchasers since it was never revealed in the marketing materials.

      1. I think you’re right and I get what you’re saying. If true think about the premise of separating the aesthetics and scale of a building from the context of the entire city because its appeal must exclusively cater to only the people that live inside it.

        1. Condo marketing does do its best to separate the building from its immediate environs if it’s in a sketchy location (i.e. near DTES, a busy street/bridge/overpass, a railway line, a fire hall, etc.).
          You often see condo presentation centres located many blocks away from the actual site of the project and artists’ renderings of buildings often eliminate surrounding buildings and replace them with grass or greenspace (as has been highlighted on PriceTags before!).

      2. I always thought the bloodless palate of towers’ exterior design had more to do with appeasing the UDP and neighbours – not the prospective tenants. Maybe not.

        1. It seems that condo marketing is all about aesthetics and lifestyle these days, so it’s the same as someone not buying a house because of the colour of the siding or brick.