Colour as Place Identity- A Case Study of Leicester Final Version.pdf (81.26 MB)
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Colour as place identity: a case study of Leicester

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posted on 2020-07-30, 11:43 authored by Jie Xu
This thesis presents an empirical investigation on the process of place-making through design practice at a local level. The overarching research question, how does colour contribute to constructing place identity in urban environments?, directs the research towards an understanding of how colour functions through the visual dimension of urban design at macro-meso-micro scales. The qualitative research comprises a practice-led case study inquiry of four representative places in the city of Leicester in the United Kingdom: Belgrave Road, Narborough Road, King Power Stadium, and Highcross. These locations reflect complex urban settings in a diverse, yet typical, UK city.

The study involves the concept of colour identity and develops strategy and method for articulating a methodology that reflects the research inquiry. It utilises a visual ethnographic approach combining interview and visual practice that emphasises the interpretation of colour meaning from ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives. Moreover, the subsequent visual research engages in a negotiation process of observing and contrasting the visual effect of ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’.

The practice employs the use of digital technology, which is central to the creation of an immersive experience through photography and video. A combination of visual representations reflects a systematic colour analysis by contextualising the environmental colourscape. The data is archived in a public digital repository that allows other researchers to visualise and exchange colour knowledge. In addition to the academic benefit, this study also investigates the potential of these methods for future urban observation and research.

The findings question the assumption of colour as an environmental intervention. A boundary condition uncovered by this study is that place identity is determined fundamentally by physical premises and human perspectives. Both involve colour contributions. The findings indicate that colour identity is a necessary consideration in place identity for the production and reproduction of genius loci. The research extends the work conducted on colour objects in urban environments by developing
a framework from which to perform a systematic analysis of the structure and impact of colour identities.

Furthermore, the study is inclined towards colour thinking as an intellectual capacity and pursuit that should be prioritised to inform urban design practice. As a contribution to knowledge, the research identifies new approaches in methodology, enriches terminology, and explores new realms for proceeding to colour research. The study aims to combine dynamic aspects of the colourscape with semantic analysis to achieve a fuller understanding of the urban visual context.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • Arts


Loughborough University

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© Jie Xu

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A doctoral thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




Robert Harland ; Roberta Bernabei

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