Emerging colours: new trends, demands and challenges in contemporary urban environments

  • Beichen Yu ESALA, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Simon Bell ESALA, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Keywords: Saturated Colour, Environmental Colour Design, Contemporary Urban Environment


The concept of colour in urban settings has traditionally been associated with architectural colour palettes or urban colour planning. However, in contrast to the generally whitish or grey architectural environment, the use of saturated colours presented in dramatic ways has emerged as a trend in urban settings since the beginning of the 21st century. This study examines this globally occurring ‘colourful’ phenomenon and argues that emerging colours have distinct features, varying from design intentions to design impacts. Focusing on projects in urban public space, this paper positions the phenomenon in the contemporary urban context and attempts to explain the conditions and driving forces behind it. By exploring the use of saturated colours in a context, we argue that colour has been engaged as an active design element to respond to the demands and challenges of contemporary urban environments. Furthermore, new demands can be observed that accelerate the spread of the use of emerging colours globally. We suggest that it is time for a critical review and evaluation of the phenomenon as part of understanding contemporary urban and landscape design culture. Such an understanding will allow us to have updated references for environmental colour design in contemporary urban contexts, and to use colour effectively.

Author Biographies

Beichen Yu, ESALA, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Beichen Yu - Achieved her MA in Urban Design at the University of Sheffield. She started her PhD research at the University of Edinburgh in 2015. Her research focuses on colour design in urban public space and how saturated colours interact with contemporary urban settings from the design perspective.

Simon Bell, ESALA, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Simon Bell - Senior Lecturer in landscape architecture in the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of Edinburgh and Chair Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Estonian University of Life Sciences. His research interests include the relationship of people to places, their health and well-being and their role in design.


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How to Cite
Yu, B. and Bell, S. (2020) “Emerging colours: new trends, demands and challenges in contemporary urban environments”, Cultura e Scienza del Colore - Color Culture and Science, 12(01), pp. 32-39. doi: 10.23738/CCSJ.120104.