1 The unfolding which produces inner light

Color is a necessary part of living structure and a necessary part of the harmonious adaptation in the world. It goes to the root of life and wholeness. Often, in conceiving a building, before I even have the outline of the volume clear, I look, in my mind, for a vision of the color. The color, in a holistic way, appears as a product of the forces on the site. One sees what kind of overall color structure may be most harmonious in that place. One can feel the harmony. One gets an idea, a glimpse, of the quality of color, hence the quality of structure which will help that part of the world, fit into it, so that it becomes more whole, more dazzling, in a quiet and unassuming way.

Imagine the process in which we visualize color in some place, and then try, step by step, to create the inner light we feel. […] Instead of focusing mentally on “wholeness” of “life” and intensifying wholeness of life at each moment, we concentrate on the idea of light: that is to say, on the way that color illuminates and enhances the structure of a given wholeness, in a given place. I concentrate my attention on the need to increase the light in the field, step-by-step, continuously.
In doing this I am consciously trying, at each moment, to make the thing before me penetrate more and more deeply into the realm of light. I am trying to reach the ground described in Book 4, The Luminous Ground. I do not need to be ashamed, to worry that this is too high-flown as an aim. It is a simple aim, though very difficult. Trying to reach it, it is useful for me to be humble and to recognize my inability. Then the task becomes more straightforward, not so pretentious, more likely to work. Again, the steps are governed by the idea that the color must be structure-preserving and structure-enhancing for the surroundings. This will determine the overall choice of color, the combinations of color, and the particular shades that we mix.

A sketch can work very successfully as a way to study the general idea of color, the overall feeling projected by a particular group of colors in a particular arrangement . […] But the actual colors that must then be put on the real building, even when inspired by such a sketch, even when aiming at the color feeling that a chosen sketch reveals, can only be worked out in the place itself, under the influence of nearby and surrounding color and light. And when colors are done this way, they will always come out different from the colors in the sketch.

I try — hope — to find a combination of colors which has “inner light”… which enhances the structure of the building… and which increases the not-separateness of the building, its unity with its surroundings. All this hinges to an extreme degree on the color interactions which actually happen on the site itself.
What we do on paper, working out the color combinations, can help us get a rough idea of what might work. But it falls short in two ways. First, it does not adequately recognize the way that real colors fit into the landscape of an actual place. Second, the colors which are formed on a drawing or painting are never like the colors which we actually put on the building… because the areas and intensities are so different.

Once the blues, and grays, and blue-greens are working all right… and they are working from the point of view of dark-light contrast… from their mutual embedding… from their connection to the surrounding light and landscape (colors create light together… then we still have to get the sequence of the colors right (sequence of linked color pairs). These are all hard to do; they all require that we are looking at the whole — something almost impossible on a sketch, except as a first approximation.

Again, and again, and again, you realize that what works, what creates life, is an empirical phenomenon. The only thing which matters is whether the light actually does occur or not… whether the building does have the quality of a being… whether you really experience not separateness in the building and the land. And this is a palpable empirical fact which you appeal to over and over again… it is the only thing which you appeal to.

It is your actual eyes, what you see, the empirical real facts about the way the colors work, and the real presence or absence of inner light… or not-separateness which is guiding you all the time.

#book/The Nature of Order/3 A Vision of a Living World/19 Color which unfolds from the configuration#

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