WAN Colour in Architecture Awards 2017 winner is…

Karen Haller 01
Karen Haller

It was an honour to be invited back by WAN as one of their judges for the architecture awards for 2017. There were 31 award categories, where I was once again a judge for the Colour in Architecture award.

The WAN awards are run by the World Architecture News, the leading resource for industry information and project news. They believe that “Colour is an intrinsic component of architectural design. Not only does it influence the way in which we experience a structure, the intelligent use of colour also expresses the building’s identity with regard to location, typology and palette of materials. 

We passionately believe that the use of colour in the built environment will be increasingly important and integral to the way our cities evolve in the next few decades – especially with the benefit of new technology, both in surface coatings and LED façades. This will pave the way for a more colourful and communicative built environment.

The WAN Colour in Architecture Award celebrates projects that harness the use of colour to dramatically transform a building or enhance the experience for its users and community.”

Onto the judging
Last year the judges were all together in a room where we were able to discuss and debate and leave knowing who the winner was. However for the 2017 judging we did this independently so we had to wait until the awards night to find out who had won. We judged back in August 2017 and the awards night was late February 2018 – oh the suspense of waiting and wondering if my fellow judges were all in agreement on the winner…

My fellow judges this time around were: Laura Carrara-Cagni, Director of Edward Williams Architects and Stefan Rappold, Partner, Behnisch Architekten.


Here is the shortlist
Here is the shortlist of six finalist we were given to assess and judge against a set of criteria. So in no particular order… the finalists are:

WAN Awards 2017 Colour in Architecture | Maria Holder Nursery School Gall Hill in Gall Hill, Christ Church, Barbados by Architects Cubed Inc


WAN Awards 2017 Colour in Architecture | The Chrysalis Amphitheater in Columbia, United States by MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY


WAN Awards 2016 Colour in Architecture | KIA BEAT 360 in Seoul, South Korea by CA PLAN


WAN Awards 2016 Colour in Architecture | Mount Jordan Middle School in Sandy City, Utah, United States by MHTN Architects


WAN Awards 2016 Colour in Architecture | The Meeting House in Boston, United States by Mark Reigelman LLC

WAN Awards 2016 Colour in Architecture | Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care in Philadelphia, United States by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects


And the winner is…
A big congratulations to everyone who entered. I’m pleased to say that the entry that topped my list won – The Chrysalis Amphitheater in Columbia, United States by MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY.

For me this organic and fluid design sits well in its environment. It would have been easy to have used one colour but in using four tones of green gives it an interesting mottled effect which is more in keeping wit the variety of greens in the surrounding.

Beyond providing a home for official scheduled performances, The Chrysalis is a pavilion in the park, an architectural folly, a public work of art and a tree house. It’s an invitation for the whole community to use and enjoy.

WAN Awards 2017 Colour in Architecture WINNER | The Chrysalis Amphitheater in Columbia, United States by MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY


This year the awards was held at the London Marriott Hotel for the inaugural live ceremony. Braving the snow and ice over 200 architects from as far afield as Hong Kong, Australia, America and Brazil attended.

Unfortunately the winners of the colour in architecture award weren’t able to attend in person so I picked up the award on their behalf, presented by historian Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb.

But that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm when I contact them to congratulate them on their win. They felt receiving this kind of award was “Amazing! Such a recognition and support is helping us get more global inertia, but also helps us to convince our clients to take a leap of faith, and attract the​ next round of interesting commissions.”

WAN Awards 2017 Colour in Architecture WINNER | Karen Haller picking up award from presenter Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb.

If you’ve seen the MARC FORNES/THEVERYMANY Instagram feed you’ll agree they are an architects firm who absolutely love and embrace colour.

It’s not often I come across an architectural practice that fully embraces colour so I jumped at the chance to interview them.

How important is colour to you in your design work?
“One of our clients once told us, as we were trying to convince him to go for an all white piece, “your work is fascinating for three reasons: the complexity of their geometry, the very unique material systems, and their unique coloration.”

C​olor has ​moved from​ an interest of ours to one of the primary research streams of the studio. Most architects would stop at color blocking with primary colors. Our initial experimentation with the computational application of colors across an infinite set of parts led us to the concept of coloration. Now, it figures into every project stage: from the design investigation into possible gradients and strategies for applying color across a structural system, to a process of matching these colors to paint, and up to the decision on treatments with fabricators and suppliers to get the best durability and warranty possible”

Often colour is something that comes at the end of a project, as an after thought. From your winning entry it appears that colour was an integral part of the design. I’d love to know your thoughts on this?
“​In the case of the Chrysalis Amphitheater project, coloration actually came as one of the first criteria. We knew the project was in an obscure area of the park and we wanted to achieve a camouflage effect among other shades of green, but also provide a signal for the future development of the park. So an artificial green gives the amphitheater a luminescence, especially in winter when there are no leaves on the surrounding trees. This directed our design research toward a very tessellated skin that would allow us to achieve all sorts of gradients, as opposed to the application of a single color.

In the studio, we are developing all sorts of computational protocols to investigate colors and coloration. Every proposal is systematically tested with about 20 to 30 different coloration variations before presenting to the client an avenue of research and development that yields a unique and highly specific color scheme.”

Where do you see colour in architecture heading in the future?
“Our work is testing the transition from more traditional color blocking to #coloration, even as bold uses of color become more popular, whether its red or millennial pink. I believe the future is opening possibilities to applied #coloration across fusing materials, with higher resolution gradients. Not long ago you had to get a car shop to custom spray gradients.”

It was a privilege to be part of the judging panel for the Colour in Architecture Award and inspiring to see that colour is gaining recognition as a valued part of the design process. It’s wonderful to see architects using colour to enhance the well-being of a space and the winner shows we’re really moving in the right direction to using colour for positive change in the built environment.

If you would like to find out more information on each of the six shortlisted and what we the judges had to say about them, then you can check it out over here.

What do you think?
Now that you’ve seen the WAN Colour in Architecture award shortlist and winner, what do you think? Do you agree with our choice or perhaps chosen another shortlist finalist? Come over to The Colour Collective and let us know.


All images courtesy: WAN

Want to see all category winners? Check them out here.

To see more work from THEVERYMANY click here.

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