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Color Psychology Part of San Miguel’s Appeal

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By Cheryl Young

In the first century BC, the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius wrote his magnum opus, de Architectura. In it, he laid out the three classic principles of good architecture:

1. Firmatis (Durability)—it should stand up robustly and remain in good condition.

2. Utilitas (Utility)—it should be useful and function well for the people who use it.

3. Venustatis (Beauty)—it should delight people and raise their spirits.

Of course, since this is San Miguel de Allende, which has been described by Condé Nast Traveller as a “jewel of a city,” we will concern ourselves with beauty. For Vitruvius, beauty in architecture was a matter of symmetry, proportion, and alignment, with universal principles and ratios found in nature, including the human body. You have all no doubt seen the famous perfectly proportioned man of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing.

For the twenty-first-century eye, beauty in architecture has become more subjective, a question of personal taste. How do you define a universal ideal of beauty if the classical principles no longer hold true?

But no one can deny how uplifting it is to round that first corner on the lookout and see the glory of San Miguel spread out before you. How enchanting is it to take that first morning walk along the (now wet and treacherous) cobblestones. So, what is it about the architecture of our city that makes this glorious mash-up of architectural styles (Spanish Baroque, Neoclassical, Mission, Mexican Modern) so appealing?

Color theory could provide a partial answer. Most painted buildings in SMA adhere to the UNESCO Heritage mandate: prominent colors must be red, (terracotta), orange, and yellow. The psychological and even physiological effect of these unifying, harmonious hues is described as “exciting, stimulating, cheering, vital, and radiant.” And of course, there is the “lively pink” of our Parroquia. (All this phrasing is borrowed from “The Perception of Color in Architecture,” a blog post on the TMD Studio architectural firm’s website.)

Now take a moment and imagine a “relaxing green” Parroquia presiding over the Jardin: after you get over your initial horrified reaction, consider that the vibrant, exciting, and creative soul of San Miguel likely never would have materialized without the color of its most photographed icon.

Come out to the Patronato Pro Niños Architectural Tour on September 20! Learn more about the fascinating architectural styles in this fascinating city. One hundred percent of the tour donations and tips go to support their important work. For 48 years, this nonprofit organization has been providing necessary medical and dental services to children in San Miguel whose families cannot afford to provide it for them. In 2017, there were 6,995 children served and over 15,000 consultations: that is more than 1,000 per month!

All tours are given in English. No reservations required, but we may need to limit the group size. With only five days’ notice, we can offer private, customized tours. Contact Christina at 415 152 7796 for information, or at www.patronatoproninos.org

 

Tour

The Patronato Pro Niños Architectural Walking Tour

Thu, Sep 20, 9:45am (for a 10am start)

Meet in the Jardín, across from the Parroquia

350 pesos per person donation for Architectural Tours

300 pesos for regular Historical Tours

 

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