Colour Theory

Social Housing Ymere


Social housing corporation Ymere recognised that the paintwork of their housing blocks is ubiquitous and consequently determines the character of a street, even neighbourhood. For an upcoming round of renovations, they chose to do things differently. Rather than slathering on yet another variation of eternally recurring white, they understood the next layer of paint stood to benefit from the intervention of an architect.

The facades of these housing blocks, mostly built in the crisis years of the eighties, often lack in relief. By accentuating distinct elements — a balcony, an entree, a roof dormer, a window frame — and downplaying others, the use of colour can introduce that much needed depth and rhythm. Rather than a superficial refresher, well-considered paintwork can breathe new life into entire streets.

We analysed the housing blocks historically, structurally, and in situ. First, we delved into the city archives, digging up mostly black and white photos that still revealed much about the original shades. Structurally, we established how the architecture worked, what elements of the paintwork could be separated or grouped, and to what effect. Finally, in situ, we took into account the surroundings, the light throughout the day, the vegetation.

We fed all information into software that allowed us to manipulate and play around with varieties of colour combinations.This finally resulted in two colour scheme proposals, always comprising two accent colours and four base tones. These were presented to the residents, who had the final say in the decision. 


Renée Appelo


Peter Mann