Architect Daniel Libeskind entertained the audience of the Auditorium of the University of Milan talking about his experience with color and Oikos, a company for which he has recently created a new palette of 33 colors. We want to describe his idea of color leaving the floor to him, in the free flow of words and thoughts that we had the opportunity to hear from an “archiartist”, as Libeskind can be defined.
“I wanted to work with a team that could develop and produce color. Claudio Balestri, President of Oikos, gave me this opportunity. However, I was not aware that it would be so complex. Color is ethics-aesthetics, Goethe said, it is a symbol, it is an allegory, it is something spiritual. In the research project carried out with Oikos I have discovered new meanings of color.
The creation process of new colors is not arbitrary, it follows rules that come from studying and a constant research process. What is created is not color in itself, it is color that will have a relationship with surface, materials, elements that modify it, change it.
And you never stop creating, inventing new colors. With Oikos I created colors that did not exist before: unseen yellows, blues, reds. Though my favorite color is red, the color of life, of love.
I had my first experiences with color when I still lived in Poland. There the streets were grey, like the buildings and the people. The city was grey. Then, when I was 11, I moved to Tel Aviv where I discovered colors. The blue of the Mediterranean sea, the green of the grass in the lawns. And I associated color to the idea of freedom. Slavery, regimes have no colors. To me, color means freedom.
Then, years later, in New York I studied color. At university I attended courses that could make me become an architect or an artist. I have become an architect, still what is architecture but art in the open sky, on the streets with buildings and urban planning projects. And even today, I continue to study color, you can never stop studying it.
In architecture, color depends on the culture of a country. In Africa I have understood the essence of color. Everything is color there. In New York, a colored building is a challenge, it is perceived as something dangerous, subversive. As a matter of fact, often buildings are white, neutral. But white has limitations. Inside it, there is often suffering, violence, death, as in Moby Dick, Melville’s white whale. I am convinced that color will return to play a main role also in architecture, the world is tired of white, often associated with pain, punishment, the struggle of places like hospitals, prisons, schools.
Every city has its own color. When I arrived in New York as a migrant, the Big Apple had a different color from the one it has today. In Milan, I have used red for my “Future Flowers” installation for the exhibition-event Energy for Creativity at the University. When I came here, in the 1980s, the city was dark green. Now the color palette is different. Has the city changed its colors or have the colors changed the city? It is hard to tell.
My Future Flowers installation is red, as I said. I tell you how the idea of this project came about: the world is ruled by the ticking of clocks, computers, smartphones. What about if this ticking would stop, I wondered? We would perceive space differently, as chaos, which is positive as far as I am concerned. With Future Flowers, in partnership with Oikos, I searched a new idea of space. This experiment looks at the past and is projected into the future, a space with no clock ticking. It can be repeated on a large scale in buildings and architectures.
Red will be the color of future. Until there is life, there will be deep red. And red does not mean only “red”: without light, it becomes brown, black, grey. Color is linked to light. It comes from fire. When I look at the sky, I do not see blue, I see red. A color that contains many colors, in a palette that ranges from yellow to purple.
Color is tradition, but every artist gives it a new meaning, in “profane” ways, desecrating tradition which is subverted and taken towards contemporaneity. Color is very many things, but it is especially something subversive, also in architecture. New ideas, projects and concept stem from everything that is subversive.
Text by Danilo Signorello – photo by Efrem Raimondi