The Psychology of Color: 8 Vigorous Applications of Orange in Architecture

Ross Brady Ross Brady

Orange is perhaps the most underrated color. Too subtle to be associated with emergencies, too dull to make us happy, this lone remaining “warm” color’s primary renown is the eponymous fruit — elsewhere it often fails to be taken seriously. No less attention-grabbing than red or yellow, however, orange’s subconscious claims imbue it with a sense of life and vitality, and as such it can have a considerable effect in architecturally scaled applications.

The projects in this collection all telegraph a sense of life and vitality to their occupants. Regardless of the intentions of the designer, this color’s associations with life-lusting vigor are present wherever it is used. It may inspire strength or courage in the people who use these buildings — or at least get them thinking about it. In any case, the subconscious associations of color is something that building occupants pick up on, whether they realize it or not, and as evidenced below, orange is no exception.

The Orange Cube by Jakob+MacFarlane, Lyon, France

Orange was used throughout this project to commemorate the site’s industrial past, and is intended to act as a reference to lead paint — a former staple in dockside areas such as this. However, as this project looks to begin the resurgence of an underutilized industrial zone, it can also be seen as supporting the subconscious attributes of orange in an attempt to inspire urban revitalization.

Why Factory Tribune by MVRDV, Delft, Netherlands

Functioning as a department within a department, this wooden structure provides a home for the architecture faculty of Delft University within the university’s main building. The structure’s bright orange color is used to emphasize the independent status of the faculty in their new host building, and references the fate of their previous home, which was destroyed in a fire. Beyond that, it also represents a new life for this department, and can instill pride and fortitude in the faculty as they wait for a new permanent residence.

Cykelslangen/The Bicycle Snake by DISSING+WEITLING architecture, Copenhagen, Denmark

This elevated bicycle path is intended to be a visual asset in the area it winds through, a notion underscored by its orange cycling surface. Used both to enhance its visibility for cyclists and nearby building inhabitants above a certain floor, this bold color choice also connotes the life-enhancing properties of exercise that accompany cycling.

Afterglow by AmorphisCorvallis, Ore., United States

Orange is used here to reference a local atmospheric condition caused by volcanic ash lingering in the air for over a century. The building it’s in (a university student center) assumes a contextual appearance on the outside, but this interior brims with the youthful vigor of a student population, and is in line with the client’s “baroque” ambitions for this space.

ArcelorMittal R&D Headquarters [insideOUT] by [baragaño], Aviles, Spain

Color choice for the exterior panels in this expansion of a steel manufacturing company’s offices was influenced by the company’s official colors: gray and orange. Used exclusively in this rehabilitation project, orange panels were placed on an addition that breathes new life into the complex, providing a bold counterpoint to the original gray concrete structure behind it.

Moderna Museet Malmö by Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, Malmö, Sweden

This museum expansion uses orange for both contextual reference and contemporary statement. The color helps it blend in with adjacent historic brick structures, and also to announce the building’s bold new form as the newest, youngest and liveliest addition to the block.

Premaydena Residence by Misho + Associates, Premaydena, Australia

Bright orange panels on the exterior of this residence serve as reference to the local ecology, since they match the color of a lichen that grows on nearby beaches. This allusion to the living qualities of the site’s ecosystem also serve as a hardy weather enclosure, constituting a “box within a box” system that protects this home from the elements.

Houston Dynamo by Populous, Houston, Tex., United States

For this stadium, a foregrounding of team colors brought orange to the center of attention. Pulling double-duty as both team spirit instigator and architectural messenger, the use of orange on the stadium’s façade denotes points of entry and egress. It’s further employed on the inside as a seating color, helping to inspire a sense of enthusiasm for any fan attending a game.

Enjoy this article? Check out the others in our series on “The Psychology of Color”:

7 Uplifting Uses of Yellow in Architecture

9 Projects Making Us See Red

8 Cool Blue Projects With Tranquil Undertones