• Omar Garcia

Designing Through Color: Initial Phases

While I would like to focus our content on more than what we specifically are doing in our studios, I think this topic can certainly shine a fresh perspective on architecture's relationship with color. Let me tell you, I know for sure I am already looking at color differently. Let me go ahead and explain.

For those reading who have gone through the studio experience, you certainly understand what wild thoughts are pushed on to students to figure out and expand. At least, that's been the case here at UIC. But for those who haven't gone through an architecture studio, or didn't make it out alive, I'll shed some light on the neat idea we're working on in my current studio.

The Premise

"Designing with Color" is a phrase engraved in my head at the moment. Rather than making walls for us to paint afterward, what if we decided to let colors design our spaces?

Yes. I know. This question may not make sense at first. And to answer it is still difficult at the moment. But this post will be a part of a series of blog posts about this topic. Think of it as a record of how my mindset changes as I move through the studio tackling this question.

As of today, I'm just starting to peek into the concept. Here's what I've uncovered so far. Go ahead and tell me where I go wrong if you see fit. Any outside thought could help.

Early Work

I always say that any preconceived ideas you have coming into a studio will ultimately be destroyed after. In fact, the more you try to grab on to old concepts, the harder it will be to make any progress.

For us, colors are colors. They come and go. They vary on our clothes, our bedroom walls, our cars, our smartphones. They come the way they are. Or, if you were artsy in the day, perhaps you blended colors to make new ones. Maybe you tie-dyed. Those are all examples of color. But did the colors ever design what was on them?

Well, maybe actually. Consider at least your clothes, the paint doesn't come off or undersaturated the fabric. They might even zig and zag to produce a unique form which you liked so much you ended up spending money on it!

Maybe a better way to explain this is: color needs to lead the design. Throw color theory out the window. We don't care if yellow makes you happy or blue keeps you mellow. We want to crash red into blues and yellows into oranges to create new sensations architecturally.

So we've done things such as looking at color relativity (both triangles in the picture are the same color).

We looked at the quantity of colors creating effects. And then we studied an artist and determined their application techniques and what effects began to produce affects or sensory stimuli.

After looking at all these topics, we've come to where I currently preside: creating study model after study model.

Architecturalizing Colors Phase 1

Now that we've let go of a few preconceptions for color, we move into the phase where color takes form.

Throughout the studio, there are attempts to infuse, apply, cook, bleed, pour, crack, and mold color into forms. Hopefully, by doing so, we begin to precisely create specific sensations: cold, succulence, natural, poisonous, fragile, endless, porous, etc.

How do you achieve these affects? Testing out a bunch of materials with color.

Let me explain with a few projects of my own.


Juicy, desireable, youthful. More ways to describe succulence. Using clear glycerin and dense, acrylic paint, I infused the glycerin with color and formed it to produce this affect.


Vacancy, dry, grainy. I went a bit further by choosing my base material. I thought it'd be interesting to create a unique substrate to help create dehydration. I burned a lot of old newspaper and letters. I refined the ash and engorged it with acrylic colors. This created a paste that could be molded and dry with a concrete-like finish.

As of Today

I can't say I'm finished or that this line of thought and conversation is complete. There's still plenty more time to dive deeper and deeper into this topic. I hope you'll stay on this journey with me. I'll be updating most likely when key events happen in the semester. I'll most likely write about this after the midterm review.

As for designing architecture through color, well there's still a lot to uncover. But maybe this gets the ball rolling for you as well. We sometimes take for granted things such as color, so take the time today to think about how and why your clothes, your watch, your phone, your house are the colors they are. Maybe this could be an opportunity for you to find out what you can create or change in your life through color.

Here are a few more models I worked on.

For now, I'll be focused on uncovering deeper meanings for you to take further.

Thanks for reading, I'll talk to you in the next post in this series on Designing Through Color.