Colour Ranges

Nov 5th, 2011 | | Colour Ranges | 4 Comments

Archrome (Munsell) Colour Range

Archrome C&R

Archrome (Munsell) Colour Card – with thanks to Colin Mitchell-Rose

The end of the Second World War saw a number of ‘satellite’ new towns develop to the north and east of London – in Hertfordshire1 and Essex in particular. With the troops returning home and their wives being cast out of the munitions factories it wasn’t long before the birth rate shot up. Furthermore, most of those lured to the new towns were newly-weds or families with young children. The Butler Education Act of 1944 had extended secondary education to all, and it soon became clear that a major school-building programme was necessary. In Hertfordshire alone it was realised that 174 new primary schools would have to be built over fifteen years.

In 1945 a new architectural department was set up in that county and one of the young architects who joined the team was David Medd. His future wife, Mary Crowley, crossed over from the education department at the same time.

Burleigh School at Cheshunt was one of the first schools built using a prefabricated modular system that Medd had helped to develop. Building started in late 1946 and finished in May 1948, largely to the design of Mary Crowley.

Burleigh School, Cheshunt - Saint
Burleigh School, Cheshunt

Although there had been a number of experiments with the design of nursery schools, some based on the early ‘Open-Air Schools’, the classic inter-war model of a classroom for all ages was the norm. Illustrated here is Priestmead School, Harrow, in Middlesex (below). Rows of locker-desks face a large blackboard, with light flooding in from the left, supplemented by clerestory lighting from the right.

Priestmead School - from Saint
Classroom at Priestmead School, Harrow.
A typical inter-war classroom for all ages

Here is not the place to elaborate on the philosophy behind ‘progressive’ teaching. Indeed, that was to come later, if at all. However, the success of the school-building project in Hertfordshire was due to the close links between the architects and the educationalists. The latter tried to convey in a broad visual sense the environment which they felt that children needed and the architects responded. As this all took place within a small authority like that in Hertfordshire it was possible for fine tuning to be carried out – something that would not have happened had the architects been in private practice.

Where colour was concerned, the early work on the Hertfordshire schools was to show that, if properly understood and successfully applied, it could be made to do much more than merely cover and provide a finish to surfaces. Colour could make a direct and positive contribution to the design of a building.

The rest of this essay has been removed after six years. You can now read more about this in The Anatomy of Colour, published by Thames & Hudson and available from John Sandoe (Books).

Papers and Paints can be found here if you want these colours mixed:

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Comments (4)

Richard John ClarkNo Gravatar » 17. Jan, 2013

Dear Patrick
i am currently stranded in Vienna with a nasty flu, however while in bed I have been reading your blog and website with much interest and enjoyment.
What a pleasure it is to read such an accessible and well written analysis on so many paint related subjects.
Your site is an invaluable source of information and also very thought provoking.


PatrickNo Gravatar » 17. Jan, 2013

How kind of you to say that Richard. Sorry to hear about the flu. At least there’s lots on the site so you shouldn’t run out of things to do. Sadly, at the moment, there is a glitch with the site and neither the embedded documents nor the maps are working. It seems that they’re not compatible with the new release of WordPress. We’re struggling away with this so it might pay to revisit in a week or two.

Best wishes

Dawn McGovernNo Gravatar » 15. Jan, 2014

Hi there, I am currently writing an essay on post-War school building and would love to use this quote if I may:
“Colour, so closely allied to lighting, was an emotional topic for the Herts team. To a generation gorged upon multi-coloured packaging, clothing and plastics, the monotony of visible hue in wartime and post-war Britain, the endlessness of the olive greens and khaki browns sanctioned by economy, camouflage and uniformity are almost unimaginable. Today, a bold splash of colour is devoid of meaning. Forty years ago it could stand for hope and a half-forgotten gaiety. That is why panels of simple, primary colours, naïve-looking today, feature so often in post-war schools and housing. In primary schools plain bright colour had extra connotations. It was a token of purity and of the learning from sensation championed by Froebel and Montessori. And it was a rejection of pre-war ‘municipal mud’, the pessimistic presumption that the dados of classroom and corridors had to be muck-coloured because grazes and grease would always be laid in by rowdy, underwashed ‘brats’.”2

Could you let me know where to find the original so I can credit it in my footnotes.

Thanks in advance, your post has been fascinating and enlightening.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 15. Jan, 2014

Yes, of course. It’s from: Andrew Saint. Towards a Social Architecture. The Role of School-Building in Post-War England. Yale. 1987. pp.90-91.