Color has long played an important role in architecture and lighting, defining space and articulating depth of surface planes. With the creation of the A|L Virtuous Achievement Award (ALVA) categories—Best Use of Color, Best Incorporation of Daylight, and Best Lighting Design on a Budget—the editors sought to recognize issues of notable importance in today's practice of lighting design, and design techniques particular to lighting. Over the past four years, a variety of projects have been submitted in the A|L Light & Architecture Design Award ALVA color category. Some projects have used color to create a mood. Other work has used color as a signature design element in creating a project's identity, and still yet other projects have used color to showcase recent technologies and color changing capabilities. Color is one topic that has not disappointed in producing submissions or discussion among jury members, and this year is no exception. In fact, there has been significant consensus among the architecture and lighting professionals who have served on the A|L Light & Architecture Design Award juries that for a project to be recognized in the color category the use of color must have meaning and purpose and not be used in a gratuitous manner. To that end, Best Use of Color has only been awarded once in the award program's history—to the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa (see July/Aug 2005, p. 38-39)—an indication of the juries' seriousness in evaluating this topic.

This year, two projects—7 World Trade Center and the Condé Nast cafeteria—which won in their main categories, were also submitted for color. Although these projects did not receive specific recognition for their use of color alone, they are important to mention, because they represent two completely opposite approaches to the use of color in lighting. Whereas color is an extension of the project concept at 7 World Trade Center, in the Condé Nast cafeteria color is the project's foundation.

At 7 World Trade Center, the site conditions and program requirements challenged the design team to find a way to unify the building's dense concrete base with its glass-clad upper volume. The result is a design concept that treats the building as “a cube of light.” Working in concert with the building's exterior, the lobby interior morphs from cool white during the day, to violet at dusk, and then to blue at night, echoing the ever-changing color and quality of light so elegantly reflected and refracted on 7's glass and metal skin. Defined by light, but not by specific colors alone, color is the finishing touch at 7 World Trade Center.

Color, at the Condé Nast cafeteria, explores light as surface. With no direct elements dictating a specific design response, the lighting designers had to construct their own parameters, which in this context, lead to an environment that is completely self-generated. Color imparts limited information—a white palette represents lunch hours, but with an endless variety of color programming capabilities all connection to real-time based events ends there. A dynamic space, the Condé Nast cafeteria provides a canvas for creative individuals to further explore color, surface, and image.

Color is a complex design element, and as each of these projects illustrate, is as diverse in purpose and meaning as the nuances of the color palette itself. A|L