Icon 142: Colour 05.03.15

  • Bethan Laura Wood: Giant fruit and Mexican ponchos in the Hackney studio of the bright and bold emerging designer

  • Selgas Cano: The Spanish architects behind this year*s Serpentine Pavilion do not shy from using vivid, citric colours

  • Spaceship architecture: Self-taught Bolivian architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre has filled the Andean city of El Alto with kitsch, technicolour houses

  • Dayglo factory: Seventy years ago, two brothers invented the synthetic fluorescent dyes that turned the world neon

From SelgasCano to Bethan Laura Wood, our April issue, available from 5 March, celebrates colour – and the architects, designers and makers that aren't afraid to use it

Last month, the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama came to London. Once an artist, he studied painting in Paris, but in 2000 became mayor of Tirana, then the poorest capital in Europe. "The city was lost completely," he told an audience at the Architectural Association. "After 50 years of communism everying was broken". However, a new entrepreneurial spirit was emerging: "Albanians had started enjoying Mercedes-Benz. Of course stolen, but working ...".

In response, Rami decided to paint the grey Soviet buildings in a rainbow of colours. The first was bright orange: "It was like a punch in the stomach," Rami said of this "Albanian Rothko". Soon, inhabitants woke to find that their balcony was now blue, their building a chequerboard of yellow and red. Everyone was talking about colours, and a referendum was held: 85 per cent didn't want the colouring to stop.

The bold palette of shocking pink, yellow, green and violet became known as Edi Rama colours. He claimed that the paint job was not merely an aesthetic gesture, but a political action with colours. He was using his brush to engineer an atmosphere of civic pride. "Being the mayor of Tirana is the highest form of conceptual art," he claimed at the time. "It's art in a pure state."

Architects and designers often shy from using colour. In this issue we interview two exceptions: SelgasCano, the Spanish architects who will bring a splash of orange to the Serpentine Pavilion this summer, and Bethan Laura Wood, who designs rigorous yet flamboyantly colourful objects. We also visit the Bolivian city that, like Tirana, is reinventing itself in technicolour, and the DayGlo factory that manufactures the now ubiquitous spectrum of synthetic fluorescents.

This issue is also my last as editor. After four enjoyable years at the magazine, and 52 issues – which have taken me from Svalbard to Sao Paulo, Tokyo to Texas – I am passing on the baton. I wish my successor the very best of luck.

To celebrate the release of our latest issue, we are launching an online photography competition on the theme of colour. Click here for details

 

Words

Christopher Turner

 

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It was like a punch in the stomach – Albanian Rothko

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IN THIS ISSUE

SelgasCano The Spanish architects behind this year's Serpentine Pavilion don't shy from using vivid, citric colours

Bethan Laura Wood Giant fruit and Mexican ponchos in the Hackney studio of the bright and bold emerging designer

Dayglo factory Seventy years ago, two brothers invented the synthetic fluorescent dyes that turned the world neon

Spaceship architecture A self-taught Bolivian architect has filled the Andean city of El Alto with kitsch, technicolour houses

PLUS

The real story behind Jean Nouvel's unfinished Philharmonie, a characterful house extension by David Kohn, Katrin Greiling's eye-bending new rugs, Duggan Morris's Alfriston School swimming pool, a round up from Maison & Objet, Luca Nichetto on the design industry's frailties, and Neri&Hu's take on Shanghai lane housing for IMM Cologne

Reviews Ugo La Pietra's polymathic practice, the hollow heart of contemporary finance, Guy Bourdin's fetishistic photos, and dystopian visions from Tom McCarthy

Rethink Berlin's city branding
Icon of the Month Pantone
Five Most Wanted Morag Myerscough picks five favourites
Crimes Against Design The puffa jacket
Private View Grayson Perry

   

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