The Psychology of Color: 7 Opulent Instances of Purple Architecture

Ross Brady Ross Brady

Perhaps one of the least-used colors in building design, purple’s power to influence lies in its well-known association with royalty. To the extent that it conveys notions of wealth, sophistication and privilege, it can be a powerful color choice even in small doses.

With the ability to suggest a prestige in almost anything, purple, when used consciously, tends to suggest the traits it’s associated with are for sale, or at least conditionally available to those who want them, depending on what sort of circumstances they’re willing to accept.

The projects below all showcase the color in some form or another, either subtly or front and center. Equally noteworthy regardless of application, the desired intent between uses is quite similar: purple is employed to communicate opulence or exclusivity, and in many cases to stir a desire for such things.

Since purple is seen so infrequently in architecture, it tends to attract attention whenever it’s used, but as demonstrated by the projects below, it should be wielded carefully, as a delicate sense of balance is needed to use it effectively.

Comédie de Béthune – National Drama Center by MANUELLE GAUTSão Paulo,RAND ARCHITECTURE, Béthune, France
A project in two parts, the office of Manuelle Gautrand Architecture completed the original restoration of this theater in 1999 with a curved mass covered in purple concrete varnish. As an allusion to the regality often associated with live theater, the color choice works well, and was further modified in 2014 when the architect was called upon to add an extension to the building. This extension, clad in ornamental black panels, slightly appropriates the neighboring purple structure with a pattern of black, diamond-shaped stripes, capitalizing on the appearance of the original color with a subtle counterpoint.

Garware Club House by Shashi Prabhu & Associates, Mumbai, India
Notions of royalty and sophistication aren’t difficult to discern from the coloring of this urban sports club, which is covered in a pall of lavender both inside and out. Exterior panels reflect a deep purple hue under certain lighting, while select interiors are bathed in a similar shade, reflecting the sumptuous sense of luxury that can accompany this color choice.

Boutique Almira Sadar by SADAR + VUGA, Ljubljana, Slovenia
This lighting installation and its surrounding interior demonstrate the power of color choice on a small scale. Constructed in two parts – an illuminated upper portion with a colored ornament hanging below – the installation is further complimented by the reflected glow it casts on adjacent walls, adding a tone of opulence to the luxury goods being sold.

Woo Nam Jai by IROJE KHM Architects, Seoul, South Korea
Purple-tinted panels wrap the exterior of this house on a secluded, wooded site. Covering both living spaces and interior courtyards, a subtle use of the color on this home’s outer skin projects a majesty and sophistication for the residence, making it appear as a crown among trees on the side of a hill.

Dui Restaurant by SuperLimão Studio, São Paulo, Brazil
Subtlety is a key factor in the color scheme chosen for this restaurant, which employs purple as an accent throughout. Woven into select walls, ceiling panels, furnishings and even table settings, its presence is understated but thorough, underscoring associations of wealth and richness for diners and, whether they realize it or not, shaping their perception of this venue as an upmarket establishment.

Sacred Heart College Performing Artsby Tridente Architects, Somerton Park, Australia
The feature wall for a school chapel was clad in translucent purple for this important campus building. Associations of regal significance and spiritual worship run hand in hand with this color choice, specified as such to cast a “lilac glow” on the chapel’s interior, fortifying a sense of veneration in visitors.

Purple Whale by IROJE KHM Architects, Seoul, South Korea
Sited in Paju Book City, an area designated by the government to host the entirety of the Korean publishing industry, the owners of this publishing company faced a difficult task in making sure their headquarters stood out among a host of similar facilities. To do so, they opted to cover their building with brightly-hued purple panels, a move that arguably meets an attention-grabbing mandate better than its unusual amorphous massing, as the color chosen to draw notice not only attracts attention but also conveys the notions of nobility and sophistication that purple is known for – specific traits this company may want potential customers to associate with their brand.