Anyone who had anything to do with computer graphics came across the term RGB. Red, green, blue. The additive colour model. It makes perfect sense. It follows the way that human eye perceives the colours. 3 types of cones in the eye are peak sensitive to the wavelengths of 445nm, 535nm and 575nm, which in plain English means: blue, green and red. Various proportions of these primary lights are seen as full colour spectrum from purple to dark red. All of these three at the same time are  visible as white.

This is neatly translated neatly into the modern technology. LCD screen pixels in closeup are really 3 individual colours varying in brightness. Same goes for the projectors, old fashioned CRT monitors and sensors in the digital cameras.

Closeup of LCD display By Luís Flávio Loureiro dos Santos [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

That’s the general idea behind the additive colour model – 3 primary light sources combined are seen as white. Lack of the light source is black. Anything in between is the rest of the colour spectrum.

This is known as RGB colour model. For anything that produces light.

So far so good.

What about printed mediums, then? Surely – the page in the magazine, or a poster are not light sources. This is where the subtractive colour model comes into play. The idea behind this is equally simple – white is lack of any pigment. Blank sheet of paper reflecting light. By adding pigments we’re subtracting brightness, therefore full coverage result is black. 3 colours as well, but this time the primary colours are cyan, magenta and yellow. Why these in particular? They are masking colours, therefore ‘negatives’ of RGBs. Cyan, magenta and yellow are complimentary to red, green and blue.

CMY and RGB colour wheel

The CMY colour model is widely used in print industry where primary colours for pigments are cyan, magenta and yellow.  Actually it’s usually CMYK – where ‘K’ stands for ‘key’ – often black where full coverage is needed. This goes for all kinds of print from professional offset and screen printing to domestic ink or laser printers.

This is CMY – the subtractive colour model. Complimentary to RGB for any medium that does not produce light.

This could be the end of it. We’ve got it all covered. All based on solid scientific background of human anatomy, results can produce the whole rainbow spectrum. The world is in peace and the trees are blossoming in full RGB.

Everything’s fine, but…

Ask any architect or artist what are the primary colours, and the inevitable answer will be: red, yellow, blue.

Who’s right then? For years we’ve been thought that the primary colours are red, yellow and blue. First used in print by Jacob Christoph Le Blon, as early as 1725, but the idea of RYB is even older, while the concept of RGB is fairly new – circa 1860s. This is the substractive colour model, same as the CMY.

RYB colour wheel

The whole generations of artists were raised on the RYB colour model, Dozens of colour theories are based on this – all the monochromatic, diatic, split-complementaries or double-complementaries. This is all based on red, yellow and blue.

In the meantime, oblivious to these theories – our eyes continue to see in RGB and the whole print industry still refuses to use red, yellow and blue for the primary pigments.

Maybe it’s time to abandon the RYB model as dated and stick to RGB / CMY theory? Maybe it’s time to declare the modernist paradigm of red yellow and blue as the primary colours and re-write De Stijl’s neoplasticism’s volcabulary in CMYK?

Mondrian v 2
Piet Mondrian’s ‘Composition A’ rendered in CMYK colour space.
G.T. Rietveld’s interior design for The Schroeder House in CMYK colour space.

They just don’t look right, do they?


Open House 2017

Open House Dublin is an annual event organised by the Irish Architecture Foundation consisting of lectures, tours and other architecture-related events.

One of this year’s event was the “Dublin 2 Modern ” tour organised by architect Simon Walker of DoCoMoMo Ireland.

Tour of modernist post-war buildings in Dublin 2 areas consisted of mix of ill-fated and here-to-stay edfices.

ESB HQ building by Stephenson Gibney [1968], or rather what’s left of it.

ESB HQ 2017
Leftovers of the ESB HQ building photographed during demolition in 2017.

Bank of Ireland HQ by Scott Tallon Walker [1974], now after extensive refurbishment (by STW) called the Miesian Plaza, and with the status of a protected structure is not threatened for a forseeable future.

Miesian Plaza 2017
All-new Miesian Plaza’s extensive refurbishment nearing the completion in 2017.

Bord Fáilte HQ by Michael Scott & Partners [1961], subject to current An Bord Pleanala review, but the future of the building is bleak.

Bord Failte 2017
Bord Fáilte HQ. Dilapidating unused for a decade. 2017

Fitzwilton House by Burley and Shoolheifer [1969]still here, but despite DoCoMoMo’s efforts scheduled for demolition.

Fitzwilton House 2017
Brutalist Fitzwilton House, 2017

Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies in Burlington Road by Stephenson Gibney [1971], barely known modernist gem.

IAS 2017
DIAS, still in original use, almost unchanged since the 70’s. 2017

Iceland. Part 2

Residential architecture

As it was the case with the public domain buildings, residential architecture in Iceland quickly absorbed functionalist principles, and the roughcast finish of local ground stone and render became distinctive feature of newly erected buildings. First certified Icelandic architect Sigurður Guðmundsson (set up his practice in 1925) and those who closely followed him embraced the new architectural language, however in many cases this was only superficial, and the internal layouts remained traditional.

Couple of estates were built as residents’ co-operative, but there was, like in Ireland, no exhibition experimental model estates like Weißenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart, or WuWa in Breslau (now  Wrocław).

What’s interesting – apartment blocks did not appear in Iceland until 1944.


Suðurgata 37 . Part of the late 1930s development of Melur district. Planning application approved in March 1939.

Skothúsvegur villa 1
1939 villa at Suðurgata 37 photographed in 2017
Suðurgata 37-plan
Suðurgata 37- planning drawings March 1939. Reykjavik City Planning Office


Tjarnargata 42. Semi-detached villa. Part of the late 1930s development of Melur district. Planning application approved in June 1938.

Tjarnargata 42
Tjarnargata 42 photographed in 2017
Tjarnargata 42-plan
Tjarnargata 42 – planning drawings June 1938. Reykjavik City Planning Office


Hringbraut 37-47. First apartment blocks in Reykjavik. 1942-44 Architect: Einar Svensson, Ágúst Pálsson.

Hringbraut Apartments
Hringbraut Apartments – Southern view of one of two apartment blocks. Photographed in 2017
Hringbraut Apartments-plan
Hringbraut Apartments – typical floor plan


Fjólugata 15 – House of Lúðvík Lárusson, 1934. Detached villa – currently residence of Ambassador of Norway.

Norwegian Ambassadors Villa
Fjólugata 15 – South view from Bragagata & Fjólugata corner. Photographed in 2017
Fjólugata 15
Fjólugata 15 – planning drawings dated July 1934. Reykjavik City Planning Office


Sóleyjargata 11 – Functionalist villa. 1932, refurbished and extended in 2014.

Fjólugata villa
Sóleyjargata 11 – View from north. Photographed in 2017
Sóleyjargata 11
Sóleyjargata 11 – Planning drawings dated April 1932. Reykjavik City Planning Office


Flókagata 8-10 Semi-detached villa built in 1937 as part of the larger residential estate developed in east Reykjavik in 1930s. Whole estate in the Norðurmýri area was influenced by the direction of sun. Buildings vary in style, but maintain understated functionalist style.

Flókagata villa
Flókagata 8-10. Photographed in 2017
Flókagata 8-10
Flókagata 8-10. Planning drawings dated July 1937. Reykjavik City Planning Office


Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum. Designed and built by the sculptor himself in 1942 as a house and studio. Subsequently extended in 3 phases between 1946 and  1987. Originally built in style derived from Mediterranean architecture, resulted in an eclectic sculptural form.

Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum
Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum. Central cube with dome is the original part of the building. Photographed in 2017
Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum-plan
Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum. Ground floor plan


Freyjugata 46 – House for Gerog Ólafsson, 1932. Architect: Sigurður Guðmundsson.  One of many houses designed by the same architect in the area for wealthy clients. Reinforced concrete structure with roughcast finish. Refurbished in 1939 and recently in 1999.

Freyugata villa 1
Freyjugata 46 – view from the garden. Photographed in 2017
Freyugata villa 1-plan
Freyjugata 46 – Ground floor plan


ASÍ Art Museum. Freyjugata 41. 1933-35. Architect: Sigurður Guðmundsson. House and studio for sculptors Ásmundur Sveinsson and Gunnfríður Jónsdóttir. Currently  Icelandic Confederation of Labour art gallery.

ASÍ Art Museum
ASÍ Art Museum north-east elevation. Photographed in 2017


Félagsgarður building cooperative  Hávallagata 31-36 21-53. 1935-36. Architect: Hunnlaugur Halldórsson. First Icelandic competition for housing estate.

Félagsgarður coop
Félagsgarður coop tupical building. Photographed in 2017
Félagsgarður coop-plan
Félagsgarður coop – typical ground floor plan


Reykjavik cooperative housing 1934-35. Hringbraut 92-104,

52-64, 67-81, Sólvallgata 51-63. Architect: Þórir Baldvinsson, Axel Sveinsson. Housing estate consisting of two types of buildings: Detached villa and duplex apartment. Built im timber frame with external render. Most houses were re-clad and rebuilt over the years.

Reykjavik coop 1
Duplex apartment building. Photographed in 2017
Reykjavik coop 2
Ásvallagata 67 – the only building in the estate preserved in its original form. Protected structure since 2011. Photographed in 2017
asvalgata 67
Ásvallagata 67 – Planning drawings dated 1934


Workers’ housing, Hringbraut. Phase 1. 1931-32. Architect: Guðjón Samúelsson. First of its kind state-subsidized housing development. Contiguous terraces of 4-apartment houses create internal common courtyard with park and playground.

Workers houses 1
Hringbraut workers houses phase 1. West view from Hofsvallagata. Photographed in 2017
Workers houses 1-plan
Hringbraut workers’ houses phase 1 – typical floor plan.


Workers’ housing, Hringbraut. Phase 2. 1936-37. Architect: Gunnalur Halldórsson. 70 houses of 2nd phase of Hringbraut development. Innstead of perimeter layout build as 4 block of terraced houses. While the houses feel like there’s more individual space designated for each apartment, the common social space consist of narrow and slum-like area.

Workers houses 2
Hringbraut workers’s houses phase 2. South view from Hofsvallagata. Photographed in 2017
Workers houses 2-plan
Hringbraut workers’ houses phase 1 – typical floor plan.



Map with locations of buildings presented above. Icon: icon slides out the menu with building numbers.



Abrecht, B. (2000)  Architectural Guide to Iceland. Reykjavik: Mál og Menning

Gunnarson, G., Braggadóttir, H., Másson, N., Ármansson, P., Rasmussen, K. (1996) Architecture in Reykjavik.  Reykjavik: Association of Icelandic Architects, Reykjavik Museum, City Planning Office, Nordic House.

Reykjavik City Planning Office online archives. Available at: http://reykjavik.is/thjonusta/teikningar [Accessed 14.10.2017]

Iceland. Part 1

Iceland? On the website about Ireland? No, it’s not a typo.

In certain ways these two islands are quite similar. Iceland seems to be in certain aspects an extreme version of Ireland. It’s a remote island at the edge of Europe, scarcely populated (with  majority of the population based in the capital city) and rather windy and rainy for most of the time. Both countries appeared on the maps as independent states around the same time. Iceland became independent state in 1918, and became republic in 1944. Icelandic economy at the beginning of 20th century was far cry from the wealthy state it is now.

With these facts in mind Iceland can be used as a good case study to compare the modernist architecture development on both islands.

Surprisingly, for such a remote and small community, modern architecture was introduced almost without any opposition, and young architects educated in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries were heavily influenced by the functional nordic approach.

Some of the buildings from Reykjavik dating roughly 1920-1947 (my highly subjective dates for the heroic period of the modernism) are presented below.

Public buildings

  1. National Museum of Iceland. 1944-1950. Architect: Sigurður Guðmundsson, Eiríkur Einarsson. Functionalist concrete building erected as a gift of Icelandic people to the nation to celebrate creation of the republic.
National Museum
National Museum of Iceland. View from north. Photographed in 2017
National Museum-plan
National Museum of Iceland. Floor plan with 2000 extension at the south end of the building.

2. Einar Jónsson Museum. 1916-1924. Architect: Einar Jónsson, Einar Erlendsson. Iceland’s first museum. Designed by the sculptor himself as a gift to Iceland to display publicly his works. Top storey contained penthouse apartment. ‘Column’ at the back of the building contains spiral staircase. The style of the building can be only described as eclectic, as the the term ‘postmodernism’ will have to wait until modernism gets invented.

Einar Jonsson 1
Einar Jónsson Museum. North-east view. Photographed in 2017.
Einar Jonsson 1923
Einar Jónsson Museum. North-east view. Photographed in 1923. Photo: L. Albert.
Einar Jonsson 2
Einar Jónsson Museum. south-west view with centrally visible spiral staircase enclosure. Photographed in 2017.
Einar Jonsson-plan
Einar Jónsson Museum. Ground floor plan.

3. Reykjavik Art Museum. 1933-39. Architect: Sigurður Guðmundsson, in collaboration with harbour master Þórarinn Kristjánsson. Originally built as a fishery office and a warehouse. Rebuilt in 2000 to house the museum.

Reykjavik Art Museum
Reykjavik Art Museum. View from the harbour. Photographed in 2017.

4. University of Iceland. 1936-40. Architect: Guðjón Samúelsson. Concrete building with Icelandic quartz cladding.

University of Iceland
University of Iceland – view of main entrance as seen from the Nordic House designed by Alvar Aalto. Photographed in 2017
University of Iceland-plan
University of Iceland – ground floor plan.

5. Melar School. 1944-46. Architect: Einar Svensson, Ágúst Pálsson. Due to architect’s education in Germany – the design was highly influenced by German funcitionalism. At the time of erection this was Reykjavik’s most splendid building used also for public events.

Melar School
Melar School. View from North-east. Photographed in 2017
Melar School-plan
Melar School – Ground floor plan.

6. Nes Lutheran Church. 1944-57 Architect: Ágúst Pálsson. First non-traditional church in Iceland. Sparked some controversy at the time of construction.

Nes Church
Nes Church. View from East. Photographed in 2017
Nes Church-plan
Nes Church. Ground floor plan

7. Reykjavik Swimming Pool. 1929-37 Architect: Guðjón Samúelsson. First swimming pool building in Iceland. Reinforced concrete structure.

Reyklavik municipal pool
Reyklavik municipal swimming pool. View from north-west. Photographed in 2017
Reyklavik municipal pool-plan
Reykjavik municipal swimming pool. Ground floor plan.

8. Agricultral Bank of Iceland. 1946-48. Architect: Gunnlaugur Halldórsson. Clear example of new ‘International Style’ with open plan public space, clean architectural lines and structure based on concrete columns.

Agricultural bank
Agricultural bank of Iceland. Street view. Photographed in 2017
Agricultural bank-plan
Agricultural bank of Iceland. Ground floor plan.


Map below shows the locations of the buildings around Reykjavik. Red circles denote public buildings, green ones – residential.

Residential modernist buildings in Iceland will be covered by separate blog entry.


Villa as seen from the main gate. Twisty path is leading to the entrance visible to the left. Photographed in 2017

Possibly the best example of Irish modernism, that’s not even in Ireland. Designed by the Irish designer-turned-architect Eileen Grey in cooperation with her partner Jean Badovici between 1926-29, located in little village Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera (about half an hour drive from Nice).

View of the main southern terrace and master bedroom windows with movable shutters. Photographed in 2017
View of the main southern terrace. Photographed in 2017

Other than being an outstanding example of early modernist total design experience – the building and the furniture are integral entities – the building was subject to artistic intervention by no other than Le Corbusier himself. This resulted in 8 controversial murals that led to long lasting dispute between Gray, Badovici and Le Corbusier.

One of 8 controversial murals painted by Le Corbusier. Guest’s room in lower ground floor. Photographed in 2017
Geography-themed collage linked with integrated light fitting in the main room (replica). Photographed in 2017

Currently, after many years of neglect and delapidation, the villa is restored (another controversial topic – this time among the conservation community) and since 2015 available for guided tours (together with adjoining Le Cabanon, and the holiday cabins by Le Corbusier).

Master bedroom’s terrace with Le Corbusier’s holiday cabins visible in the background. Photographed in 2017

It’s a pity that such an architectural masterpiece was not built in Ireland, and Eileen Grey herself had to leave Ireland for England and subsequently France early in her life to pursue her career.

Interesting solution to the electric installation. Surface-mounted exposed wiring. Photographed in 2017.
External ‘solarium’ with Monaco visible in the background. Photographed in 2017.

It’s worth noting that when E-1027 was being designed in 1926, the Weissenhof Siedlung in Stuttgart was still a year away, and the benchmark modernist villas like Mies van der Rohe’s Haus Tugendhat or Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye were not even commissioned.

Shaded terrace under the main house raised on the columns (pilotis) in accordance with Le Corbusier’s 5 principles of modern architecture. Photographed in 2017

More information on Grey’s work and tour bookings available on Cap Moderne’s website.

Research – how to get there?

There’s no substitute in the research work for the physical experience of the building. It’s not a problem when the subject is in public realm, easy to view at least externally in its full context. Private buildings however pose much bigger challenge, as often they’re not even visible from public road, and arrangements for site visit are much more complicated.

Useful tool for researchers in Ireland was presented by the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht in the form of the Section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 tax relief scheme, which allows the owners of approved buildings apply for the tax relief for the maintenance, repair and restoration in exchange for making the building accessible to general public in certain times.

The list of approved properties for 2017 is available on the Department’s website here.


The days of the scheme might be numbered as the Minister Heather Humphreys announced review of the financial viability of the scheme by the Department, so if you’re looking to visit any of the properties better hurry up while the arrangements are in place.

If you can’t fight them, join them

Necessity copy
If it’s printed, then it must be true.

In the second half of the 30s there seems to be visible shift towards acceptance of the widespread trend of the Modernism. More and more ads praising the advantages of the ‘modern’ appear in the trade press. This article published in The Irish Builder and Engineer in 1937 (4.4.1) sees the future in the Modernism (although the word itself only appears in the title) for not being backwards and repetitive, unlike all 19th and 20th century Revivals and the ‘absurd battles of the styles’. The only way is to evolve, and the author pints recent lack of creativity in the architectural field. Praised is the contemporary architecture of Norway, Sweden (quite often Scandinavia is presented as the architectural benchmark in the late 30s) and America. Sources of these architectural virtues the author reasons by lack of influence in the Renaissance in these countries, which seems to be the main source of the plagiarisms and endless neo- styles.


Bolschevism of the international eccentricies in architecture

In 1931 The Irish Builder and Engineer published 2-pages long article about Sir Reginald Bloomfield’s views on modern architecture. (4.3.1) Sir Reginald (1856-1942) was a British Victorian and Edwardian periods architect renowned for his grand architectural schemes in England and Europe. Needless to say that his descriptions of the contemporary modern architecture as ‘vulgar, eccentric or mere architectural stunt’ made him somewhat critical of the movement that was gaining popularity in the continent.



The editors of The Irish Builder and Engineer fully agree with his views adding to array of insults that the modern architecture is misusing, or even worse – abandoning, the most ‘sacred’ architectural Orders!
In line with the omnipresent policy of economical, and as a result – cultural isolationism the modern architecture is accused of being cosmopolitical.


Better learn your Dorics and Ionics, or else the architectural Bolschevists are here to get you.


Water-powered country

2017 marks 90 years since the creation of the Electricity Supply Board in Ireland, a state-owned company created to manage country’s overall supply of the electricity. This was a direct result of a huge undertaking that was the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric Scheme on river Shannon in county Clare.

Despite the claims that it was the world’s first electrification scheme (3.4.1) – let’s award this title to Soviet political V.I. Lenin’s testament: the GOELRO national electrification plan of 1920 – this was the cutting edge world technology employed in rural Ireland.  The scheme was widely published in the newspapers around the world at the time.

The construction that took only 4 years from start to becoming fully operational in 1929 at the cost of  £5 000 000 (about a quarter of the annual budget of Ireland).

Commemorative plaque at the entrance to the power station.

While the power station today is not as important in the overall production of electricity (only around 2% of the national requirement is generated by Ardnacrusha, as opposed to nearly 100% in 1929), despite its age it’s still a viable and sustainable source of electricity.

Lock tower and the headrace canal leading to the power station. Photographed in 2017.

To mark the anniversary – for July and August in 2017 ESB is offering free guided tours of the power station to all interested in the scheme. It would be a hugely missed opportunity, so the trip to the countryside was necessary.

Francis-type turbine from one of the generators is now serving as a water feature at the entrance to the power station. In front there is memorial wit all the names of people that died during the construction of the scheme. Photographed in 2017.

Progress. What for?

1932-04-11 Building materials

What a lovely contrast can be seen between the editors of The Irish Builder and Engineer in the 1930s, and the Le Corbusier’s modernist manifesto published almost a decade earlier. There is no doubt that the Irish journal was on the rather conservative side. This passage from the 1931 journal’s edition [4.2.1] clearly expresses the attitude of the writer towards the progress in the construction industry.