PULLMAN, Wash. — In the three-mile wide community of Pullman, 18 miles of yellow paint is used for striping and curbs.
A yellow monoplane crop duster applies spray at 125 mph at 10 feet above the ground.
Eighty-six pieces of yellow, women’s clothing are for sale in Pullman.
People may not have noticed the pervasive world of yellow, yet it is the easiest color for the human eye to see, says Paul Hirzel, associate professor of architecture at Washington State University.
Last spring, Hirzel gave architecture students in his Site and Landscape Design class the assignment of looking at their community through the color yellow. The result is the exhibit, the “Yellowtown Collection,” on display at the Compton Union Gallery in Pullman from Jan. 14 to Feb. 1 with a reception at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Students were asked to record a “hidden cultural intersection” in Pullman’s landscape, thereby creating an unseen common ground and unifying disciplines that before may have seemed unrelated.
The project is part of Hirzel’s goal for the class. He wants students to learn to elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary, gaining better awareness of their environment and enriching lives. The class has been named one of the top four architecture courses in the country by the American Institute of Architects and the Associated Collegiate Schools of Architecture.
“The goal is to take things of a place that everyone thinks of as ordinary and to give them nobility,” he said. “That allows you to find more joy in being in a particular place.”
“After viewing this exhibition, yellow will never be the same color. Seeing yellow in Pullman will be enhanced.”
The “Yellowtown Collection” has created a new community of artifacts, crossing disciplines and boundaries in the process, Hirzel says. The work allows the students to get off campus and meet people in the community they normally wouldn’t, from crop duster pilots to line painters. Students also did work related to the color yellow in a variety of fields from entomology and public works to ornithology.
For instance, students who examined how many yellow clothes are for sale in the community learned that only three stores in Pullman sell new clothing.
“The biggest eye opener was how few places you can go to buy clothes and how frequently I travel to (nearby) Moscow to shop instead,” said Whitney Henion, a fifth year architecture student and editor of the “Yellowtown Collection.”
“It creates a new community, a new common ground,” Hirzel says. “When has anyone ever done an analysis of a community around yellow lenses? From such a narrow viewpoint, the diversity of connections is astounding.”
The assignment also helps students increase their awareness of color, Hirzel says. Most architecture programs do not emphasize color awareness and theory, and architects tend to be afraid to use color in their work.
“This was an opportunity to open that door,” he said. “No one has ever focused this kind of eye on yellow in relation to the environment.”
The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. but will be closed Jan. 21. The exhibit is supported by a grant from the WSU Parents Program.
For more information, contact Hirzel at (509) 335-1373, firstname.lastname@example.org.