Pub: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
PAINTING THE TOWN PINK
WHAT is it about pink, anyway? Like something out of Dr Seuss, pink is invading our streets. Whether in shame, embarrassment or simple coquetry, Sydney’s Victorian pubs, Federation bungalows and Edwardian town halls, restaurants, terraces and office buildings are succumbing, one by one, to a mysterious blushing disease.
Melburnians may call it “Sydney galah” but their city, too, shows signs of the affliction. Pink, from palest baby’s bottom to bright bordello blancmange, has become very much the colour of the times.
What can explain the phenomenon? Post-modernism, largely. Pink came to prominence in the 1970s, having been co-opted by the first-wave post-moderns on both the east (Robert Stern, Stanley Tigerman, Michael Graves) and west(Charles Moore, Frank Gehry) coasts of North America as an essential declamatory part of their modish heterodoxy.
At that stage, of course, pink was still very politically loaded. Pink stood for everything: for the rejection of cool abstraction, of simplicity, unity and the machismo of corporate Taylorism; and for their replacement with the warmth of populism, the hedonism of decoration and an irrepressible desire for fun. It reinstated regionalism, history and context – all the things that orthodox Modernism had regarded as soft.
Bounded on either side by ochres and terracottas – earth colours – pink gains penumbral appeal from both olde-worlde brick and stone and the eternal Mediterranean village. But the colour itself is overtly “unnatural”; the colour of satin and cocktails – but also of plaster, wallpaper and paint – it symbolised a final rejection of modernism’s tough, puritan “truth to materials” ethos.
Suddenly, after years of scrupulous architectural nakedness, covering-up(of timber, of concrete, of structure) was not only acceptable but gleefully indulged. And pink provided, too, ironically, the sudden, thrilling, profanity of bringing “feminine” boudoir colours on to the street.
So hearty an embrace by the avant-garde meant that pink must eventually filter down to the rest of us. And filter down it unmistakably has.
No longer risque, of course, and certainly no longer political, pink has become, on the contrary, an arch architectural respectabiliser. Cheap chip bars can do what they like now to dignified, Victorian North Sydney banks and City pubs – gut them, stuff them with standard reconstituted interior, clag spiral stairs over their tall, arched windows and plastic barrel-vaults on their facades. Anything, so long as it is followed by the mandatory total immersion in pink.
Pink has made it.
Never mind climatic suitability, that mildly apoplectic, overbaked quality of pink streets on a hot day. And never mind that the succulent Mediterranean look of peeling; sun-faded tempera remain steadfastly unfakable.
Pink has become not only ideologically sound but (in the popular eye) “very Sydney”, bespeaking a vague sensitivity to Contemporary Issues (nothing subversive), with just a whiff of Federation brick-and-tileia.
What more could a colour offer? Everything looks rosy. How long, do your suppose, before our spectacles revert to their true colours?