Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Colour, Hell of a Good Thing!

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posted on 2021-09-20, 01:48 authored by Burke, Belinda

Although the importance of colour as a fundamental element in architecture has heightened in literature recently, there is little research that explores the potential for its use in New Zealand. This design-led research explores how Mexican Architect Luis Barragan’s strategies in choreographing magical atmospheres through light and colour can influence contemporary architectural practice in New Zealand. Three predominant strategies are determined; coloured light, coloured latticework and planes of colour. Analogue design experiments engaging with the analysis of these strategies provoke further enquiries. This research investigates how the design of a residential house in South Wairarapa seeks integration with Barragan’s light/colour strategies from Mexico. This is influenced by a photographic and illustrated analysis of the site’s climatic characteristics and architectural context of the region, and is subsequently tested through the design processes and methodology of Barragan’s including written narratives, sketching and physical modelling. Finally, exterior and interior colour schemes are visualised through drawings that interrogate relationships between the proposed architecture and its surrounding environment and atmospheres desired. This research demonstrates one approach to designing with light and colour for New Zealand architecture to generate emotional, magical atmospheres. The findings of this research suggest that the element of contrast is important in generating the mysterious or unexpected, giving impact to the extraordinary quality of coloured moments. It further acknowledges that the public concern of colour is just as crucial as its private concern, and both must be considered with respect to the project’s individual context. It is hoped that this research will raise confidence in using colour in New Zealand as a powerful spatial tool and means to express individuality and identity. 


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Campays, Philippe