Invited speaker
Serra Lluch

Academic Degree:  PhD Architect

Academic Title:  Professor

Country:  Spain

City:  València

Affilation:  Universitat Politècnica de València, School of Architecture

Brief paper description: 

Despite the possible benefits of a good color palette in architecture, neutral architectural design, commonly known as “hospital aesthetic,” is usual in the interior of health and well-being spaces, such as nursing homes for the elderly. Instead of a neutral institutional aesthetic, the general purpose of the design should be to convey a sense of home, and color can be one of the most useful features for this purpose. Moreover, color can emphasize the difference between quiet and more stimulating spaces and help elderly people in wayfinding. An appropriate color palette compared to white can be a key factor to enhancing the quality of living in nursing homes.
In many experiments testing the influence of different colour hues on individuals, it is usual to group them in two colour palettes, warm and cool, and also to compare red versus blue. This distinction was used by Le Corbusier himself, who assigned opposite architectural properties to blue and red, such as passive-active, or distance-limit. Although the differentiation between warm and cool colours, long vs short wavelengths, is an emotional assessment, it seems to be quite universal among individuals of different cultures and genders. 
In recent studies developed by our Color Research Group in Architecture at the Universitat Politècnica de València, with experiments developed on real nursing homes and on virtual reality immersive environments, we have found that colour preferences cool vs warm for interior spaces in nursing homes depend on room type and are related to the arousal level expected for the activity carried out in them. For the social rooms in nursing homes, which are places for interactions with others and require higher activation, Spanish elderly people for both genders preferred warm colours over cool, with the biggest preference for yellow. This colour preference fits with higher arousal levels induced by warm colours versus cool that we obtained recording physiological markers. In the case of the bedrooms in nursing homes, which are places to rest and require lower activation, elderly people for both genders preferred cool colours, with the highest preference for the green. Interestingly, the most preferred colours for both groups rely in the centre of the visible spectra (yellow-green).
Nevertheless, it seems that the color preference for interior architecture, warm or cool, depends on the room type and the characteristics of the individuals, mainly age and gender, and is not always related with the performance of activities. In this sense, and in the context of other research projects at UPV with Spanish individuals, we found that university students had higher arousal and better intellectual performance, memory and attention, in cool versus warm classrooms. However, this better performance was contradictory with the color preference, which was higher for white classrooms. Further research needs to be carried out to understand the relationship between color preference, arousal and performance for cool and warm colors in different architectural typologies and final users.