PULLMAN, Wash. – When architects design, they most often start their projects with ideas about forms, structures and materials.

Then they move on to lighting.

Eventually they think about color.

As part of a graduate architecture studio, a group of WSU students were asked to start their design projects with color as their primary objective. In the class, taught by Professor Paul Hirzel, the students used color and color theory to develop a project for Carpenter Hall. The projects will be on display in the Carpenter Hall gallery starting May 5 with an opening reception set for 4:30 p.m.  The students are also publishing a book that features the work.

In particular, the students looked at how the natural world creates color. They applied those principles to their design decisions, making color their first consideration.

“The goal of the studio was to give voice to more thoughtful, rational color selection – whether it is a wall, a floor, a roof or ceiling, a stair, a window, or a door,” said Hirzel. “How can we bring reason to color and not thoughtless default, fear and indifference?”

In 11 projects, the students took a variety of approaches. So, for instance, one student looked at random color, mixing colored light and brick. Another student addressed the illusions that color creates – how it can change the perceived size, weight, and distance of objects.

For students who have spent years studying in Carpenter Hall, looking at the building literally through a different lens was exciting, said Piya Iselin, a student in the class who also received her undergraduate degree at WSU.

“We have been in this building for so long,” she said. “It was exciting to introduce color and new ideas.”

Architects don’t usually focus on color, said Jared Bradshaw, a student in the studio class.

“It was a challenge – a good learning experience and a project that really provided the chance to broaden our minds.”