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Identity through colour:
The colours of Cologne

19-Sep-2019

Colours of Cologne

In the opinion of artist Kirsten Lampert and architect and city planner Christian Heuchel, the colours of Cologne are: a grey produced by mixing soot and chalk, a yellowish-white kaolin, a reddish fireclay, and a greenish earth tone. Image: Kirsten Lampert

Colours are a very powerful tool in both interior design and architecture; they also play a decisive in how we judge the aesthetic harmony and the quality of an object or space. Good colour design can create identifiable objects and spaces in almost all areas of life. The designers of a new construction project in the south of Cologne also seem to have taken this idea to heart, having created their own colour scheme for the development. After all, newly built districts often have no real identity and appear out of place in their cities.

What colours best describe Cologne? If you were to ask fans of football club 1. FC Köln or traditionalists, the colours would of course be red and white. Artist Kirsten Lampert and Cologne architectural firm O&O Baukunst see the matter somewhat differently and have looked back into the city’s rich history, into antiquity, for ideas. Inspired by the Roman oil lamps that frequently come to the surface on numerous archaeological digs, they have identified a reddish fireclay, a yellowish-white kaolin, a greenish earth tone and shades of grey – the result of mixing soot and chalk – as the distinctive colours of Cologne. The four colours are serving as a provisional palette for the planned building project in the south of the city.

Parkstadt Süd: a large-scale project

Cologne's Parkstadt Süd
Cologne's Parkstadt Süd

Parkstadt Süd is intended to be a vibrant district that inspires a sense of identity among its residents. Image: O&O Baukunst

The colour scheme for the Parkstadt Süd project. Image: O&O Baukunst

The goal of the new Parkstadt Süd construction project is to create an entire district on the land around the wholesale market on the southern edge of Cologne’s city centre.It should be completed within 15 years and provide homes and employment for 10,000 people. The development is currently the largest urban design project in an inner-city area in Europe. In order to create living spaces that are vibrant and inspire a sense of identity, a design team of landscape architects and transport planners headed by architect and city planner Christian Heuchel set out in search of an authentic palette of colours firmly rooted within the city’s history in order to counteract the increasing conformity of urban developments.

Incorporating the city’s history

By defining a provisional palette for their colour concept, the designers of the Parkstadt Süd project hope to establish a link between the new development and the city of Cologne via its history. In this way, they aim to fulfil the desire of the future residents of the planned new district and their neighbours for their living environment to have a strong recognition factor. At the same time, by maintaining the continuity of the colour scheme used in the new buildings, the residents should also gain a kind of anchor and refuge from the turbulence of everyday life.

The architect as “Veedels-Baumeister”

Architect Christian Heuchel and artist Kirsten Lampert

Architect Christian Heuchel and artist Kirsten Lampert creating their colour scheme for Parkstadt Süd. Photo: Kirsten Lampert

In order to promote the identity-inspiring effect of the new building project and to support the basic idea of a concept-based urban plan that involves local people in the creative process, a “Veedels-Baumeister”, or district architect in the Cologne dialect, was specially appointed. Under the direction of Christian Heuchel, who is acting as the expert contact partner for all concerns, it is hoped that various measures will make the new construction concept easily understood by everyone. These measures include artistic yet informative presentations and installations on the subject of the new city of Cologne, through which anyone with an interest can learn what the plans are for integrating the new district into the urban environment, history and topography of Cologne. Four publications are available to support these events, designed as chapters of a “Veedel” manual and discussing different aspects of the new district: “The Colours of Cologne”, “The Lights of Cologne”, “The Texture of Cologne” and “Cologne’s Green Spaces”.

You can find more information here: issuu.com/ortnerortnerbaukunst/docs/farbenkoelnszeitung-en .