In architecture, color selection is important in every part of the globe, but perhaps no place more so than in Latin America. I grew up in a Texan neighborhood of grays, browns, and beiges. It was a big contrast to the houses I’d see in El Salvador, which is where my family and I would often go to visit relatives. My grandfather’s house, for example, was cotton candy blue. The house across the street was hot pink. The house next door was orange. And the house down the street was green. Color was everywhere, and—even at that young age—it made me wonder why the architecture in the United States was so colorless in comparison.
“Latin America is a large geo-political territory. From it, Freddy Mamani’s eclectic and psychedelic architecture style rises, and in Mexico it’s Luis Barragán, Ricardo Legorreta, and Mathias Goeritz who bring their distinct palettes,” Mexican architect Sergio Alonzo explains over instant messaging. “Historically, color used to represent hierarchy and status. But then industrialization arrived, tourism arrived, and the local governments pushed to continue the use of these historical colors to promote tourism.”
And even though some regions have ordinances from the government to use bold colors, the local architects still need to know which colors to administer. “The more architects and designers know about color, the more care goes into making the right decisions,” Alonzo says. “In order to create architecture that will evoke specific emotions in people, the architect must be intentional and use color wisely.”
The color pink, in particular, has had a significant impact on the design in this region. Barragán, in collaboration with artist Jesús “Chucho” Reyes, often used pink in the houses he designed. What’s more, artist Ramón Valdiosera inspired the term rosa mexicano, or Mexican pink, which can be seen across Mexico on textiles, crafts, houses, and taxis. Those artists and architects are from a bygone era, but there’s still a current crop of Mexican creatives that are embracing their cultural roots. Designer José Bermúdez, founder of Studio Bermúdez and a professor at Universidad Iberoamericana, notes the modern importance of pink. “In architecture, pink still gives a good contrast—it brings a lot of profoundness to the atmosphere. That makes it timeless,” he writes to me in an Instagram message.