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Color matters

Color is ingrained in our evolution and directs our behavior. We think about color in every major purchase we make. Color is important for our cars, clothes, houses, even our hair. So, when KONE developed elevators for Helsinki’s Amos Rex art museum, they put a lot of thought into color, light and shade.

September 4, 2018

“Color plays a big role in our lives due to evolution,” says Harald Arnkil, lecturer in color studies at Finland’s Aalto University. “The classic theory is that early primates developed trichromatic color vision to better distinguish ripe fruit and other sources of nutrition in the primordial forest. In this way, color is fundamental to survival. Additionally, color guides the sexual behavior of many animals, including humans. Color is a signal associated with our enjoyment, taste and pleasure. It definitely affects our mood and behavior.”

Amos Rex’s first exhibition showcases digital art by a Japanese group of artists called teamLab. They are known for their immersive digital installations, where colors play an important role.
Amos Rex’s first exhibition showcases digital art by a Japanese group of artists called teamLab. They are known for their immersive digital installations, where colors play an important role.

Visceral impact

Designers pay great attention to the colors we see in a building, from the paint in the foyer to the lights in the elevator, because they influence our mood. As an example Arnkil points to the most common thing imaginable: looking at the sky.

“If we see a blue sky we feel invigorated. It puts us in a positive mood,” he says. “A red sky is the subject of many proverbs, such as ‘Red sky at morning, shepherds take warning’. If we see an unusual sky color, like a purplish hue, we react to it. We might think it is a bad omen.”

How we experience a color is also important. Generally speaking, we might like the color red, but a red apple impacts us very differently than a red sky.

“Surface color, like pigment or paint, gives us information. It signals something and helps us identify objects,” Arnkil says. “Surface color can create mood or atmosphere symbolically, through association. But colored light has the potential for a more direct impact on our emotions, penetrating, as it were, straight through to the most primitive parts of our brain.”

It is no wonder that colored lights are so important for the arts, including films, rock concerts and exhibitions. In the case of Amos Rex, Helsinki’s newest art museum, KONE used unique colored lighting to create the atmosphere in the elevators.

“Colored light is one of the elements we feel subconsciously when we enter a space,” explains Jukka Korpihete, senior lighting design specialist at KONE.

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Part of the exhibition

The Amos Rex elevators have two walls covered floor-to-ceiling with integrated LED-matrix. The light they emit is diffused by several layers: they are covered by a glass face so that individual pixels are invisible. Colored light seems to flow up and down and around the walls, pulsing, shimmering, waving, even rippling out from the round control panels like from a stone tossed into water.

“The light displays on the walls are programmable,” Korpihete says. “They can be used to produce moving lights to welcome visitors, to relax them and get them in the mood for exploration. Or they could actually be part of the exhibition. The walls could be linked to the light animations created by artists for the museum exhibitions. Acoustics are also important. We can modify the sounds people hear to make the elevator ride part of the museum experience.”

Integrating the technology into the wall materials and developing the innovative controller was a major undertaking. The Amos Rex elevators are unique. But Korpihete says that KONE could use the same solutions for other applications.

“These walls could display announcements or give information,” he says. “Shopping malls could turn their elevators pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. The elevators could change colors to match the season or times of day. It is an amazing experience and a new way to bring art into your daily life.”

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