Combining Colors: Revisiting Le Corbusier’s Color Theory

July 28, 2023



Shan Arcega

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret or Le Corbusier, is one of the pioneers of modern architecture. His portfolio has projects spanning urban planning for entire cities to crafting furniture. some of this work embraced a color theory he called Architectural Polychromy. Considered one of his masterpieces, it has 63 shades in two color collections. The 1931 collection has 43 shades in 14 series while the 1959 has 20 more intense shades. Known as the Keyboards of Color, they are all harmonious hues that can be combined in any way. These tones also come with a color selector that combines colorful and neutral tones.

The color palette of 1931 has 43 shades. Photo from Les Couleurs Le Corbusier.
The color collection from 1959 has 20 other powerful colors. Photo from Les Couleurs Le Corbusier.
when combined right, colors can boost the aura of a structure. Here is the Jiaogong Kindergarten Campus by LYCS Architecture in China. Photo by Qingshan Wu.

Related read: Designed for Children: The Jiaogong Kindergarten Campus is a Colorful Playground Inspired by a Spaceship

Colors have three groups: constructive, dynamic, and transitional.


Constructive colors have natural pigments used to create pleasant atmospheres. Often, they establish harmony, warmth, and a connection with the natural environment. These colors make up the space’s ambiance and character.


Dynamic colors use synthetic pigments that evoke emotional responses. These colors are bold, vibrant, and intense–reds, blues, and yellows. These primary colors give the space visual impact and a heightened sense of dynamism.


Transitional colors or transparent colors alter surfaces without affecting spatial depth. Usually, these are for glazes or clear finishes to improve the texture of materials.

A rebuilt staircase from a renovated Le Corbusier apartment. Originally fashioned by influential furniture designer Jean Prouve.

According to color psychology, colors actually have an effect on our minds. Colors do have different meanings according to one’s own memories or culture. But a well-blended mix of colors in a space can certainly make a day feel fresher and brighter or dull and lonely.

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