Recap :: Brendan Macfarlane Seminar with Advanced Students

By Angeline Focht, BArch Candidate

On Friday afternoon, March 30, 2012, a group of advanced students were invited to attend an informal seminar with Brendan Macfarlane, of Jakob + Macfarlane. The seminar was intended to be an extension of his lecture the previous night, going more into the fine detail of how the firm’s work moves from idea and model to a realized, comprehensive project. The seminar kicked off with a series of questions to direct the dialogue.

The first topic of discussion was the prominent use of color in Macfarlane’s work, what part it plays in the designs, and how specific colors are chosen.

In the Café Georges at the Centre Pompidou, color reflects program and evokes a sense of feeling in each space. Observing the way color works in the original Pompidou building, there are four with a definite meaning: yellow indicates electricity, blue is for air, green invokes water, and red denotes circulation and pathways. With this in mind, Brendan discussed how color choice becomes associative to function and program. There is, in essence, both a primary and secondary skin used in the Café. In this sense, colors are used like ‘gloves’ to differentiate insides and to soften the atmosphere. Aluminum is the primary skin, used to reflect light through the space into darker areas that receive less natural light.

For the Orange Cube, orange is the color of work-sites, as well as a color that reflects the city of Lyon. The competition was in large part a way to create a new energy in the area and a bright orange beacon works to bring vitality and life. The inner façade is a darker orange, while the outer skin is colored a lighter orange. This creates a greater sense of depth and a unique reading of the color as you observe the building.

One issue discussed was how to deal with the issue of bold colors being exposed to light and natural elements. To this, Brendan countered that every building suffers, and we must accept that yet be conscious of it. He said that the colors they use are anti-UV, enamel paints baked onto the building materials and hand painted where baking is not possible. He noted that he saw the most degradation in areas that were hand painted and that there was very little where the color was baked on.

One aspect that distinguishes the firm Jakob + Macfarlane to me is their experimentation with technological devices and how that influences design as well as the use of innovative materials. Towards the end of the seminar, Brendan talked about his love of materials and materiality. He talked about how we as architects need to know about and be in love with materials in order to use them, how that is fundamental to making architecture. His approach involves always asking about new materials. How are they structured? What are they made of? What can it help you make? It is about knowing conceptually what you want and then a matter of sensing and feeling things out.