Are fleeting architectural fads marring SLO?

March 20, 2017

By David Brodie, Allan Cooper, Sandra Lakeman, Jim Montero, Judy Rowe, Elbert Speidel and Mary White

We have recently noticed that black and middle gray buildings are sprouting up all over San Luis Obispo. We are particularly concerned as fashion (unless it’s clothing which has a short life span) should not play a role in the built environment.

We are architects and former architecture professors who have had an association with San Luis Obispo over the years. We would like to put forth a number of arguments opposing the use of black and middle gray on buildings particularly in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Black and middle gray look out of place in the context of downtown San Luis Obispo. Architects should adhere to our Community Design Guidelines and use color creatively, exploring subtle variations on the existing, predominantly light color palette.

Climate change will demand much lighter colors for the following reasons:

a) Dark colors absorb and hold heat requiring cooling systems, systems that can increase our carbon footprint.

b) The reduced amount of reflective light demands more exterior and interior artificial lighting, again increasing our carbon footprint.

Darker street spaces increase security concerns and discourage the use of these spaces, particularly at night.

Darker colors and dimly lit spaces contribute to psychological depression. In western cultures the color black generally connotes fear and anger. The color white generally connotes happiness and purity (International Color Association [AIC] Study Group on Environmental Color Design [ECD], 2011).

Dimly lit spaces contribute to accidents.

Black and middle gray buildings further decrease available light during the winter months when there are already fewer daylight hours.

Dark pigmentation creates heat islands making our streets unpleasantly hot in the summer months and this is compounded by the fact that summer temperatures are rising precipitously.

It may be useful to look at examples of black and middle gray buildings here in San Luis Obispo and elsewhere:

Railroad Square neighborhood

Broad Street neighborhood

Soot-covered buildings in central England and Europe







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22 Comments

  1. AGDUDE says:

    For Sam Luis, I have 30 years in the trade of design , I spent 5 years on AG ARC, The talk was always Human scale.. I’m a drag me up by the boot strap designer, to be honest the two examples you show , I find interesting .. I tend to think inside the box old style ARCH.

    I have been insulted for years , about the requirements to be a Licensed Arch. Trends change.. Lets try to have a open mind?

    Thank you,

    Elite Designs Unlimited. Fine home design since 1989

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. SamLouis says:

    You mean like this proposed garbage for instance: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article125776949.html

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  3. carter says:

    What about the cooler months? A darker color will actually lower heating costs. Which is funny since a majority of this town does not even have cooling or A/C

    (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
  4. r0y says:

    I am not a fan of the life-less, sterile gray / black / silver / industrial wanna-be urban look, either, but I am a BIGGER FAN of it’s their property, they should be able to do what they would like (within zoning, of course).

    Mandated color schemes cannot even survive the bland utopian tract housing projects, as more and more are just doing whatever they want; and you know what? It looks pretty damn nice, not being so cookie-cutter.

    Architects are a snooty bunch to begin with, tenured and/or retired professors who never actually DID any architecture are even worse (and no, that one house every 10 years does not really count).

    (12) 18 Total Votes - 15 up - 3 down
  5. demiseofslo says:

    Wa wa wa. Whats next? All streets must be painted white? Get over yourself SLO

    (7) 15 Total Votes - 11 up - 4 down
  6. marc says:

    Dear acooper – the future of planet earth is secure. Whatever changes occur -warmer or colder – will we adapt and we can do so without handwringing worrywarts attempting to micromanage everything.

    (6) 24 Total Votes - 15 up - 9 down

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