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Inherent color and material color

Berlin‑Boston, 1 December 2018

Cardillo’s House of Dust and Specus Corallii projects part of the ‘Inherent color and material color’ chapter of the Thinking Color in Space book which focuses both on the tangible aspects and design criteria of color, and on its indeterminate nature and its experience value

Thinking Color in Space Birkhäuser

The alienation of the material

Untreated, natural, and pure material stands in opposition to material that has been deliberately alienated, for example by the application of color. Smooth or rough, shiny or matt, dense or porous, shimmering or plain, surfaces can be manipulated in such a way that their overall appearance is exclusively defined by color. It is mainly a question of strategy as to where color is to be applied, what color carrier is selected, and in what form and for what function it is to be used. Unlike at the time of the modernist movement, today no color theory exists that can claim to be generally applicable. Color can function as material, and material can be part of a color scheme. If color is deliberately used in a new color and material context, it can have unexpected new effects. [...]

Antonino Cardillo, Specus Corallii, Cattedrale di Trapani, 2016, in Thinking Color in Space: Positions, Projects, Potentials, 2018, pp. 314–315.

Antonino Cardillo, Specus Corallii [opening chapter image], Trapani, 2016, in ‘Inherent color and material color’, Thinking Color in Space: Positions, Projects, Potentials, 2018, pp. 314‑315.

In the House of Dust project in Rome, Antonino Cardillo works with few but effective material interventions at the border between reality and fiction. In an apartment dating from the 1960s, identical color shades are interpreted in completely different ways using colored surface textures of various roughness, which are placed in strong contrast to each other. In parts this has created strong color worlds that, under the effect of light and shadow, generate an array of atmospheres. The application of rough earth-colored plaster—the so-called dust layer—up to the level of an artificial horizon, which also connects with all windows and openings, generates a cave-like feeling. The rough plaster, which has been manually applied with a trowel and colored subsequently, and the polished cement plaster determine the interior of the main room. A change in color—from gray-brown to a shade of pink—separates the public and private areas of the apartment. The alienation of the material using the devices of color and texture surprises and, at the same time, generates a feeling of security. The mood in the rooms changes depending on the light situation. This demonstrates clearly how relative our perception of color is.

House of Dust

Antonino Cardillo, House of Dust, Rome, 2013. Photography: Antonino Cardillo


  • Kerstin Schultz, Hedwig Wiedemann-Tokarz, Eva Maria Herrmann, ‘Inherent color and material color’,[↗] in Thinking Color in Space: Positions, Projects, Potentials, Birkhäuser, Berlin‑Boston, Dec. 2018, pp. 314‑315, 342‑343.