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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Snoid

You say “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” . And the heat islands created by billions of acres of black heat generating solar panels? I have had engineers tell me the ground under the panels is so hot nothing can survive there. Ya know animals and stuff. The reflective heat back into the atmosphere must be intense. Keep Ca green, green with money that is.


kettle

“I have had engineers tell me the ground under the panels is so hot nothing can survive there.”


Wrong, in fact ground arrays have gravel under them to prevent grass from growing and being a fire hazard.


“heat islands created by billions of acres” Exaggerate much?


Hongo

It takes a lot of arrogance to say “everybody should make their buildings the color I like, not the color they like.” That arrogance becomes threatening when it’s followed by “and we ought to use the power of the law to force people to do things my way.” Mind your own business.


acooper

Hongo, SLOinsight and marc –

A careful re-reading of this article should prove to you that you are attacking a straw man by throwing “beauty” into this argument. This article addresses the functionality of color not its esthetics. Esthetics and color preference had nothing to do with the Title 24 prohibition (enacted back in October 2005) on the use of black or dark gray roofs. Even steeply pitched roofs must have a roof color that will reflect or emit the sun’s energy away from the building. Light colors on buildings have other benefits not mentioned in this article. For building owners they can cut maintenance costs and increase the life expectancy of the building. Unless you don’t care about the consequences of climate change, these issues have less to do with “arrogance” (unless we’re talking about the obvious arrogance of architects) and more to do with the future of our planet.


ca805

Your opinion of this esthetic is clear from the loaded title. Trying to point out argument fallacies wont prove your point. Neither will the weak environmental claim. If this was entirely about the thermodynamic impact of dark paint, you should have titled it accurately and without obvious bias. Why are these considered fads? Why are they fleeting? You are an architecture professor, is this an adequate report? Seven authors and the only cited research is a study that tells us white is good and black is bad. It seems to me you and your colleagues are more interested that people–creatively explore the subtle variations of your approved pale color palette.


Also:

“Unless you don’t care about the consequences of climate change…” <= "ARROGANCE"


SLOinsight

Maybe if your images were properly exposed the buildings wouldn’t seem so dark.


So the larger point is of the piece is, don’t use modern color palettes in architecture because of climate change — seriously?


Noodly Appendages

Are fleeting architectural fads marring SLO?


No


marc

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A blanket condemnation of the use of black and middle gray on buildings in San Luis Obispo is silly.


The addition to Railroad Square is nicely done and, in my view, will age well. As for the two buildings on Broad Street both are vast improvements over their prior looks. One was a giant Quonset hut!


These experts who are trying to save us can’t really favor peachy-pink?


SamLouis

It’s not a “giant Quonset hut.” It’s a poured in place concrete building with a big barrel vaulted roof. I think it looks better today then it ever has.


rukidding

Paint them whatever color they want. San Luis Obispo has already lost. What was once a nice quaint city has turned into a college party, drinking and damage town. And if that hasn’t worked

it seems like no event can go on without wine, beer or cider. So what do you expect? Maybe just a couple of different shades of gray to go along with it all.


carter

When was it a “nice quaint city”? Before the college? Cause that has been around since 1901…


SamLouis

“Fleeting architectural fads” have long marred SLO. It’s silly to simply oppose “the use of black and middle gray on buildings particularly in downtown San Luis Obispo.”


Take a good look around SLO. It survived what I term the “John Ross School” (others call it the “George Hasslein School”) of flat-out ugly architecture. The old city library — now the little theater is a prime example of this style.


It has survived the “just slap some redwood plywood and/or some redwood singles on it School” of flat-out ugly architecture.


Downtown is now coping with the “enough face brick and fancy doors and Monterey Street can be Rodeo Drive too! School” of flat-out ugly architecture.


Downtown SLO’s architectural charm is largely gone. Sure, there’s the Old Mission, the Carnegie Library, The Presbyterian Church and a handful of other nice buildings that have been well preserved, but worrying about “the use of black and middle gray on buildings particularly in downtown San Luis Obispo” is too little, too late.


For what it’s worth, easily one of the top five most beautiful and monumental buildings in Downtown SLO’s history — the former SLO Sr. and Jr. high near the corner of Johnson and Marsh was built from granite quarried from Bishop Peak in, you guessed it, black and middle gray colors.


Rambunctious

“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”

So “Climate change” means global warming? To me climate change could mean anything. Could be warmer could be colder, could be wetter, could be dryer. If it is colder the dark colors would be welcomed. Words mean things people.


Slosum

Forget climate change…. the buildings are just butt ugly.