Lessons In Seeing From The Woman Who Revived Le Corbusier’s Color Scale

Color expert Katrin Trautwein “could never live anywhere that has white walls.” Her three-room apartment in Uster, Switzerland is proof of that. But she rejects the “naïve” notion that yellow is necessarily sunny, or that beige is always bland.

Don't drain away the color (Joe Buckingham)
Don't drain away the color (Joe Buckingham)
Ulrike Hark

USTER On my way to visit someone who's made a name for herself as a specialist in color, I expected to be bowled over by optical stimulation. I couldn't have been more wrong.

On entering Katrin Trautwein's flat I had the sudden feeling of being enveloped in a safe cocoon. It feels like evening – but no: it's 2 p.m. As Trautwein, wearing jeans and tennis shoes, leads me through her three-room flat in Uster (near Zurich), she tells me: "This is an evening apartment. It's the only time I'm ever home. If I were home during the day, I would paint the walls in lighter tones."

Trautwein is the head of a paint company called Farbmanufaktur KT.Color, also in Uster. On weekends, she heads off to Germany where her partner lives in a house and where her dog can run in the garden. She says she left the 50-kilo mixed breed at the office today, which I feel is a shame: I would have liked to see the massive animal ambling through this atmospheric setting, with its one wine-red wall that starts in the hall, continues through the open living/dining area and carries out onto the terrace. The effect is classy and sophisticated.

As is often the case with design professionals, Trautwein's furniture choices are Classical Modern, like the chrome side table by Eileen Gray and the chaise longue by Le Corbusier. She gives sway to her taste for the unconventional and handcrafted in her choices of art and accessories. She found the painting of a village scene that hangs in the dining zone at a flea market. She runs her hand over the smooth surface of an old, richly and skillfully carved wood medicine cabinet in the bedroom and says: "I always have to touch things to see how they feel. It's the same with color: you have to want to touch it, to feel its texture. That's the secret of successful color."

Over the black leather De Sede couch is a painting by British artist Paul Harper that includes the sentence: "Life is never dull in your dreams." Trautwein's life is not dull, period. She lives with and for color. A trained chemist, the 49-year-old has created a company whose reputation extends well beyond Swiss borders. She says she's always been curious about how colors come together, the cultural contexts they emerge from, and how they work architectonically.

Revisiting Le Corbusier's color keyboard

In the mid-1990s, she began reconstructing the legendary color scale developed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Between 1931 and 1959, he used natural pigments to create what he called his "Clavier de Couleurs' (color keyboard) with over 60 tones. The natural elements in these colors, like cinnabar in vermilion and lapis lazuli in blue, render them extremely expressive. Light hits them so softly that they all go together, the way wild flowers do in a meadow.

But Corbusier's original "recipes' were lost until Trautwein began the self-imposed task of analyzing the colors from whatever remaining supports she could find. The next step was to mix the paints – using only natural pigments. In 1998, Paris-based Fondation Le Corbusier, which manages the Le Corbusier estate, gave her an exclusive license. Trautwein still produces the colors, although she gave up the license voluntarily a year ago: "They wanted high profile marketing, and that went against my company credo," she says.

To indulge her arty side, Trautwein gives talks about color, and acts as color consultant to designers, decorators and people building their own homes. But she doesn't put much stock in the "psychology of color" approach, a favorite of decorating magazines. She finds breezy formulas like "blue is calming" and "yellow has a positive effect on mood" to be naive, even false.

Trautwein dismisses the notion that a yellow room is ‘sunny." In a darkish setting, yellow can instead look dingy and sad. Under those circumstances, the color expert advises, people are better off with a warm, light brown such as the one she has chosen for her own bedroom. Either that or a natural grey-beige.

"People have a healthy, built-in understanding of color," she says. "It's based on nature. It's very grounded. Le Corbusier knew that." Color supports architecture, says Trautwein, which is why it belongs in the domain of architects – not psychologists.

Does the expert have any advice for the rest of us? Yes. The hallways of apartment buildings, entrance halls, and small spaces like guest toilets – any place where one does not spend a lot of time – can handle a great deal of color. "You can really let loose with red, green, lilac in such areas," Trautwein says.

Another thing: don't paint the walls one thing and the ceiling white because you believe that will create a feeling of height and space. "The opposite is true," says Trautwein. Pure white is in-your-face, and walls or ceilings painted white come right at you, whereas darker tones like umber suggest depth and distance, because they lead the eye in. "I could never live anywhere that has white walls," she says.

I look around at the patina effect of Trautwein's own apartment with new eyes, and suddenly the idea of freshly-painted white walls – commonly accepted as a panacea to make things look fresh and clean – seems by comparison nothing short of crass.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Joe Buckingham

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more Chicago Bulls or running of the bulls? Let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com info@worldcrunch.com!

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