Colorful cities: a little paint, a lot of pride

2014-04-14 12.28.22-1It’s amazing what a little color can do to warm up a  neighborhood, such as Buenos Aires’s La Boca neighborhood in Argentina, the multicultural Bo-Kaap neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa, or San Francisco’s Haight Street in the US. Or painting a city’s centre as a canvas, such as in Valparaiso, Chile, Venice, Italy, or Guatapé, Colombia (image, left). Urban colors can set a mood, create an identity or develop neighborhood pride. Inspired by an article in The Guardian, I wanted to share a few of my favorite examples, and my travel photos.

Some neighborhoods have always been colorful, such as the ancient indigo city of Jodhpur, India. In other cases, color is being used to transform cities, for example by transforming low-income neighborhood into giant murals, such as in Pachuca, Mexico, where local authorities and graffiti artists collaborate to create a new identity and public pride (image, above). In several of the informal settlements (comunas) in Medellín, Colombia, walls and rooftops have been painted in bright hues or murals (images, below). I was amazed at how a little paint could transform city neighborhoods and the pride of the local citizens, when visiting the city during UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum, held in Medellín in 2014.

In the Western Harbour district of Malmö, Sweden, color choices were part of the planning model: pale façades faced the sea to blend in with the landscape, while inner neighborhoods are painted in warmer hues (images, below).  Facing long winters, many Scandinavian cities, including Stockholm, Copenhagen and Reykjavik, are full of buildings and neighborhoods painted the colors of a sunsets and fire – especially in their old towns. In post-communist Europe, cities like Tbilisi, Georgia, and Warsaw, Poland, focus on retrofitting their historic city centers, while also emphasizing the use of colorful paints.

There’s no set model, or version. Instead a city should find its own path in designing its colorful canvas. Below are a few of my favorite colorful cities, with a few additional images borrowed (and cited) from The Guardian. Want to see other examples of colorful cities? Check #guardiancolourfulcities on Instagram and Twitter, or add your own images of your favorite rainbow city.

2013-05-20 21.02.12
Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland
2013-08-21 05.58.02
Haight Street, San Francisco, USA
2013-10-10 15.09.14
Geneva, Switzlerland
2013-09-26 18.23.13
Old Town, Malmö, Sweden
2010-05-17 18.20.15
Beijing, China – the Forbidden City
2013-11-19 07.58.13-1
Old Town, Warsaw, Poland
Old Town, Stockholm, Sweden (Gamlastan)
2006-08-18 07.41.56
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
2006-08-18 07.47.09
In Jodhpur, it’s not only the buildings that are colorful.
2005-08-14 08.06.44
Copenhagen, Denmark
2011-03-02 04.26.09
Old Town, Tbilisi, Georgia
2011-02-28 21.59.01
Old Town, Tbilisi, Georgia
2006-07-08 14.50.35
Venice, Italy
2009-09-04 06.15.40
Lisbon, Portugal
Brightly colored pubs & storefronts are common in Ireland. This one in the costal city of Dingle.
Antalya, Turkey: artistic inspirations
Røros, Norway: former mining town, turned UNESCO World Heritage site
Pachuca, Mexico (photo credit: Omar Torres, also feature image)
Havana, Cuba (Photo credit: Patrice Tourenne)
St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada (Photo Credit: Christina Charles)


The neighborhood of La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Photo credit: Alamy)



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