Process Orientated Colour and Room Design

A Topaz interview with Thomas Bexte in Germany

Thomas Bexte is co-founder of the Design Cells Network in Germany and works with colour and its effect on people. For several years he has been engaged in developing colour concepts for buildings for public, professional and private use. He uses his artistic freedom to find a ”free space“ for the user via new concepts of colour design.

Thomas Bexte

Topaz: “Colour is a fundamental need of the human being... a kind of raw material like fire or water,” says the painter Fernand Leger (1881-1951). Would you agree with that?

Thomas Bexte: Can you imagine a day without any colour? Sure, you can cover up your eyes, but that doesn’t mean that your body is not unconsciously reacting to the effect of the surrounding colours. It is well known that not only do we perceive colour through our eyes but that some blind people can perceive colours directly through their skin.

Topaz: What is your approach in colour design?

Thomas Bexte: Colours have an affect on the whole of the organism. Each system in our body needs a different frequency of energy for different activities. The colour red, for example, can strengthen a handshake between two people by 10%. That shows how the colour red can give us more power in a specific way. On the other hand, the colour blue diminishes blood pressures and has a balancing or calming effect. If someone has been physically working very hard, they will be ravenously hungry for certain foods but not for others. It is exactly the same with colour. If someone has a monotonous job they will need the stimulation of certain colours to compensate for the mind being under-used, so that they can stay balanced. Therefore my starting point is always functional, and the human being is the focal point.

Topaz: What kind of a role does the individual user of a room play in your colour concepts?

Thomas Bexte: If only a few people use a room, the particular needs of each individual can be addressed, and there are many considerations in that. For example, the colour energy boost that someone may need at a specific time can vary a lot. Also a person might have built certain strong associations with a colour that might run counter to the “normal effect” of that colour, and sometimes this can completely superimpose the actual effect of it. That is why I don’t give any standard solutions, but try to get to know the people who will be using the rooms.

Topaz: How important is colour in the context of furniture, room design, the use of materials and other influences? Doesn’t it actually play more of a minor role?

Thomas Bexte: Today we are advised not to put an electronic alarm clock close to our head on the bedside table. That is not because the electromagnetic field from the clock is huge, no, it is because of the number of hours we spend in bed next to it, as that has a cumulative effect. In the same way, the colours in our home or workplace are not the biggest influence that we are exposed to, but they are always there, every hour, every day. The effect is cumulative, whether it has our attention or no. Colour can have a supportive effect on what we do, or it can be neutral, or it can interfere with or even inhibit what we do. Who hasn’t had the experience of walking along a sparse white corridor of some company, government agency or hospital and felt it to be rejecting and cold.

In my assessment a carefully chosen coloured paint would be much less inhibiting on the efficiency of the activities in a hospital, for example, and it would definitely influence the emotional state of both patients and employees in a positive way, so that recovery and working morale would be improved. I even think that it could strengthen the long term health of people and thereby reduce the cost of health care, which would be of general interest.

Topaz: Is there any kind of vision, a future view for a “newly dressed” world?

Thomas Bexte: I hope that design will be much more conscious and process orientated in the future, and will consider the needs and requirements of people; that we will create buildings that facilitate and ease learning, where healing is supported, peace and creativity are stirred, according to what is supposed to be happening in that location. There are already some outstanding projects in the world, but in our cities there is a huge need for effective purposeful design. What still needs to be explored is the understanding and the experience of which colour supports what in which combination, and which shape, geometry, material and plants support and enrich our quality of life.

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