colour pollution

Hanging out on Er Sha Dao in the evening, the new apartment blocks on both sides of the river which are jammed together in an imitation of Hong Kong’s New Territories are a blaze of light in the haze. Unlike Hong Kong, there is a proliferation of bad rope-light, a seeming lack of understanding of colour and eye-burning quantity over quality. There are some gems though, the Borg Cube in Tian He is one, but it’s a rare night when even the brightest stars can be seen.

In May, the Symposium on China’s Color Industry: Status Quo or Development was held, addressing the serious issue of light and color pollution.

Miao Wei, director of the Beijing AEAA (America, Europe, Asia and Australia) International Economic and Cultural Exchange Center, says urban color pollution has become increasingly severe as cities rapidly expand and rebuild. Miao says that Chinese cities violate the science of color: ads bristle from every available post or wall; traffic signs are not uniform; and garish lighting projects are thoughtlessly installed.


Cui Wei, an associate professor at the Beijing Garment Institute, has visited more than 20 countries to study urban color science applications. He says that good lessons may be drawn from many European cities. For example, the government of Turin, Italy, began paying close attention to city color planning and construction as early as the 19th century, and many other cities throughout Europe followed its example. “Effective color planning and regulation enable us to enjoy the attractive, distinctive styles of European cities today,” says Cui.


Professor Han Guangxu, of the Architecture Institute of Central Academy of Fine Arts, suggests legislating color application in urban construction and including color design as an indispensable process in city and regional planning. Such legislation would mean that a proposed project could not begin without an approved color design. Moreover, related government and professional organizations should strengthen color science study and improve city color management. Simple, scientific, regular, orderly and civilized, says Han, should be the goals.