subtle colour and soft tones in the city

the entrance to the National Bank designed by Arne Jacobsen



Many of the buildings in the city use pale stone or pale marble or are painted and in subtle or subdued colours with tones of cream and stone and soft grey. 

Or maybe subtle is the wrong word - because the ochre of the Nyboder houses could hardly be described as subtle - but these colours provide a solid and a calm background to the life passing by and passing through these buildings. 

There are few sharp pastels, few day-glow colours, few sharp or acidic colours but toning down colour is not boring and nor is it a safe or an easy design option … it is possible to get it wrong, particularly when colours on neighbouring buildings do not work together … so going for a stone or grey or off white colour it's not a lack of design … very much the opposite because reducing the palette range means that the juxtaposition of tones becomes more important with darker or lighter tones defining architectural features by making some parts set back and some break forward in order to emphasise planes or emphasise details or pick out a pattern or carving or texture or moulding.



The east lobby of the Design Museum is a fantastic space that some people might, initially, find boring but it is like a quiet and carefully-constructed poem in tone and texture with subtle contrasts so juxtaposing smooth dark grey marble with the warmer, softer and broken textures of the grain of the wood blocks of the floor and contrasting those surfaces with the deep, matt wash of grey across the walls. This did not happen by accident but is the consequence of considerable thought and careful choice.

Even within the museum there are different sets of these tones. On the staircases flanking the entrance there are much greener tones in the soft sage colours of the stone flooring and painted handrail and dado of the woodwork of the staircase.