Learning a Colourful Language: Investigating colour in architectural education

Bahareh Motamed, Richard Tucker and Margaret Grose
2015 Conference

Colour is able to connect the realms of architecture, history and culture through its impact on feelings, interpretations and perceptions. It also plays a prominent role in the visual hierarchy of urban space, where it can emphasize or disrupt unity. Commonly, the development of architectural and IT technology, together with the march of globalization, has transformed the colourscapes of contemporary cities to become contextually meaningless and without respect to urban cultural identity. In light of the impact of the built environment on city colourscape, and thus the wellbeing of city dwellers, it can be argued that those responsible for colour decisions making should have considerable knowledge and experience in use of colour. However, a review of literature and the curricula of Australian architectural schools reveal a lack of colour training leading to low confidence amongst many architects to use colour. Thus, this study investigates the relationship between colour learning in architectural education and colour use in architectural practice. Data was collected by means of a survey of postgraduate students and architectural practitioners in Victoria, Australia. The findings reveal a lack of learning about colour in architectural education, despite overwhelming agreement about the importance of colour knowledge to practice.

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About the author

Bahareh has a B.Sc in Architecture and Master Degree in Urban design from Iran. Currently she is a PhD Candidate and tutor at Deakin University, Australia. She received a DUPRS scholarship for her PhD study in Deakin University. She conducting her PhD thesis in the field of colour study in architectural education. Her research interests are urban environment colourscape, urban studies, architectural education, architectural design and wellbeing, and environmental behaviour studies.


Through sustained evidence-based innovation and research, Richard Tucker has become an internationally recognised specialist (with approaching 50 publications) in the pedagogy of architectural design and related contexts; an area of education previously largely neglected by researchers. His work has involved substantial competitive grant-funded projects (ten investigations, funded for over $1 million, including six as project leader) that have enhanced learning satisfaction and outcomes for his students. For five years he has been in Teaching & Learning and then Research leadership roles in the school, a period that has coincided with dramatic improvements in school-wide SET scores and research outputs. His acknowledged teaching excellence lies in the area of innovation through research in the areas of: teamwork, multidisciplinary collaboration, assessment, studio-based problem-based learning, flexible delivery, environmental and ‘sustainable’ design, Work Integrated Learning (WiL) and universal design. Richard’s research has led to improvements in teamwork learning across the University, improvements in this area in other higher education institutions, and has been recognised through a Carrick citation and the WJC Banks Award as the most outstanding teacher at Deakin. In 2011, Richard became only the second teacher in the discipline of Architecture to be awarded the prestigious Australian Learning and Teaching Council Award for Teaching Excellence. Richard was the team leader of the recently completed OLT priority project “Enhancing & Assessing Group & Team Learning in Architecture & Related Design Contexts,” and is a member of the five-person team for the OLT project “Re-casting Terra Nullius Blindness: Empowering Indigenous Protocols and Knowledge in Australian University Built Environment Education.” Richard has authored a long list of publications on higher education. Richard was on the project team of the ALTC priority project “Assessing Creativity: Strategies and Tools to support Teaching and Learning in Architecture and Design.”


Margaret Grose works between design and ecological science. Margaret won the Faculty Teaching Award for Excellence in the Masters in 2011 for the subject Constructed Ecologies. She teaches ecological design and ecological theory for design in the Masters of Landscape Architecture and Bachelor of Environments. She is particularly interested in how ecology is taught to built environment students, and has recently been awarded a Universitas 21 Fellowship to examine this question internationally. Margaret has published across science, landscape architecture, and planning.

Margaret began her passion for landscape in Agricultural Science, focussing on processes in soils and water, and her PhD concerned the ecophysiology of Australian plants in relation to water stress and disease. Postdoctoral work was at Oxford University and theoretical ecology in the Mathematical Biology group at the University of Cambridge. She returned to Australia and majored in Independent Design in Landscape Architecture in 2001, followed by project work as an environmental scientist/landscape architect in an environmental firm, focusing on water, and later in suburban design. Her understanding of the ecology of the Australian flora and agricultural systems, particularly in relation to water, remain a key driver.