My current obsession is with all things black and white, turning things black and white, painting in black and white and taking photographs in black and white. I want to know more about black and white. I want to turn the world black and white. Why? Just for fun.
Today, walking around the Wolverhampton School of Art, I noticed something obvious, something I knew already. Everything in the Wolverhampton School of Art building is black and white (or various shades in between). The doors are black. The floors are grey. The walls are white. The stairs are black (with yellow safety strips). The sign for the cafe downstairs is black and white. The chairs are mostly black. The lift is grey. The outside walls are grey. The windows are grey. The paint splats are mostly white (oddly). There isn’t much that isn’t black, white or grey (except the people and the art perhaps, and the yellow safety strips on the stairs).
It is an art school architecture that is devoid of colour. I wonder why.
Is it in the hope that a blank canvas will inspire the bees inside the big grey hive to create?
Is it to act as a contrast to the colour that will naturally spill forth on canvases, in sculptures, in glass, ceramics and animation?
Was it a conscious decision, based on a detailed study of the psychology of art students, or just a sign of the design of the times, based on late 1960s and early 1970s taste?
Here’s some history (not much, the Internet is oddly scant on this topic). The Wolverhampton School of Art began life in 1851 (although not in its current location). In 1970, the year before I was born, the current School of Art building was opened by someone called Sir Charles Wheller (or so the Internet tells me) so it was presumably designed and built in the late 1960s.
I’m guessing that the basic black-and-white interior and exterior design I see now is the same as that imposed in the late 1960s. It reminds me, interestingly, of Stafford and Coventry train stations, which were also redesigned in that era. They have (or used to have in my youth at least, I’m not sure about now) the same black shiny rubber floor and wooden handrails. My high school also had a similar design in places (the English department, the ‘Well’ and languages if my memory serves me correctly). I wonder if it still does. I am intrigued to know where this commonality comes from. Someone in the 1960s and 1970s, an architect or interior designer perhaps, who resided in the Midlands, obviously favoured this look. There may even be other public buildings out there with the same black rubber flooring and wooden handrails. I’d like to know if that is the case.
Despite the lack of colour and perhaps because I am currently living and breathing in monochrome, in my head and in my research at least, I am really rather fond of the Wolverhampton School of Art decor and overall look, both inside the busy hive and exterior to the busy hive. It is what it is. It is the Wolverhampton School of Art.
It is iconic to me, to the city and to all the other bees who reside in it. I love it. Dare they ever change it, at least, while I am still a student here (so for at least the next two years).