Professor Song Jianming is Vice Dean of China Academy of Art (CAA) in Hangzhou. Heavily involved in chromatology and colour trends, he established Colour Research Studio in 1993, and is also Vice President of China Colour Trend Society and China Architecture Culture Research Society. He has completed city colour planning for many cities and regions across China, and is currently working in this area for a railway station in Nanjing. Design China sat down with Professor Song Jianming on his most recent trip to Beijing to unearth more.

You are widely recognised for your work in chromatology. How did you start your career?
I have been working in this area for nearly 30 years now. When I was younger, I trained in Chinese painting, which deals heavily with colour construction. Many creatives in China were painting at this time, but there was a gap between colour application for artists and designers. It was only when I went to study in France that I learned the crucial connection between colour and local context e.g. culture and geography. This changed my identity entirely.

How so?
When China’s reform policies were put into place, a market was created. We spent a lot of time analysing this new opportunity – and learning. Booming cities and fast development saw many changes take place, mainly in architecture, which destroyed old city planning and caused many people to feel anxious as a result. Huge amounts of money were poured into this new architecture but, in the end, cities ended up all looking the same. This explosive commercial development also resulted in colour pollution.

For a long time now, I have been focusing on colour planning in relationship to economic development and urbanisation. I look at how colour affects a city, and how to create positive impact for future development. It is the infrastructural transformation and related issues that I am deeply interested in and care about.

Tell us more about your involvement in the China Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010.
I was mainly responsible for the pavilion’s colour palette. One façade of the red building sat in shadows: when red meets shadow, this affects the shade of the colour. My role was to solve how colour would be addressed in such a situation.

The China Pavilion is a symbol of our country. I needed to find a balance between people’s feelings – to meet their expectations – and cultural symbolism through the application of colour.

How would you develop chromatology practice for the future?
China is an extremely big country, so we have different layers (of society) that need categorising for this purpose:

  1. Pre-school and primary school children; we need to help them to develop a natural understanding of colour and to gain some first-hand experience in this area
  2. High school students; teenage children in China deal with huge amounts of pressure to perform well in academic exams. This leaves very little time and few opportunities for them to develop an understanding of aesthetics. We need to improve on this situation
  3. Educators and tertiary education institutions; we have the Colour Research Studio, but other universities need to follow suit and develop similar studios or projects of their own
  4. Professionals working in design; different fields of design present different problems. We need to train professionals in the importance of colour theory via books and workshops
  5. Education for the common citizen; how do we raise awareness of aesthetic taste? How can we help people to develop a sense of “good” taste?

With thanks to Wang Yun for organising and interpreting

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