Why Do Architects Wear Black?

Book Review


Enter a room full of architects, and chances are, easily 80% of them will be wearing black! Why is that? Is it a stereotype? Or is it some kind of architectural dress code? Most architects don’t abide by these fashion recipes, but if somebody outside the profession comes across just one architect fitting the Corbusian mold then, alas, all architects must do the same.

That Le Corbusier’s and Philip Johnson’s proclivities for a certain attire has trickled down to numerous enough architects to become a popular stereotype, is the reason this small “Black” book by architect Cordula Rau, asks numerous architects over a seven year period, the eternal famous question “Why do architects wear black?”.

The sketchbook-size booklet asks a hundred or so architects and Architecture professionals, and publishes one response per spread with the original handwritten answer alongside the typed, translated text and the name of the architect.

The answers reveal as much about the personalities as they do about the question itself. Some of the most interesting answers came from signature architects, Peter Eisenman and Rem Koolhaas state that they don’t wear black. Ben van Berkel thinks wearing black started somewhere in Japan.

The answers in the book cover the array  from the enigmatic to straightforward, to simply not answering the question that was posed – something that architects are very good at!

Certain strands of thought can be discovered while reading the book: black is a (non-)color that allows other colors to stand out, black is an easy choice, black is fashionable, black is tragic.

It will make you think about the design decisions you make on a daily basis and the intricacies and quirks of fellow design practitioners you know, or have heard lecture.

So why do I think architects wear black? The most obvious answer in my opinon is to set ourselves apart from the others, the “non-architects”.

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