Pantone’s Color of the Year 2021: Yellow and Grey in Architecture

Pantone’s Color of the Year 2021: Yellow and Grey in Architecture

On December 9, Pantone announced its color(s) of the year for 2021: PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating. Selecting two colors for only the second time in 22 years, Pantone described the chosen yellow and gray as independent but complementary, representing a theme of unity and mutual support. Whereas PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating is bright and vivacious, PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray is firm and dependable, the marriage of which represents strength, optimism, and fortitude following a markedly challenging year. In architecture, this palette combining playfulness and solemnity has been used in social spaces, domestic spaces, care spaces, and more to communicate similar themes of resilience and positivity.

Below are 14 examples of projects using Pantone’s 2021 colors of the year.

TULIP – Your place at the table / ADHOC architectes

Designed this year, this colorful installation project was developed to accommodate and attract citizens to downtown Montreal following several weeks of confinement due to the pandemic. Reflecting the ideals of the Pantone color of the year selection perfectly, the installation represents optimism and fortitude following a painfully difficult time.


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Pantone Reveals "Inventive and Transformative" 2022 Color of the Year

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© Raphael Thibodeau
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© Raphael Thibodeau
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© Raphael Thibodeau

DSC Select Store / say architects

This renovated retail space in Jiaxing, China, utilizes yellow and gray to create a quirky and chaotic interior for a select store featuring multiple upscale fashion brands. The unusual yellow accent pieces and stripped grey walls co-contribute to the unusual avant-garde design of the space.

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© Minjie Wang
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© Minjie Wang
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© Minjie Wang
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© Yawen Fan

Escape Vehicle #9: ICE / Studio Morison

Studio Morison’s Escape Vehicle #9 is a small-scale sculptural pavilion that imagines a future in which humans tread lightly and transiently in nature. The pavilion is a lightweight and demountable shelter that can accommodate two people for a night. The grey aluminum emphasizes its function as a temporary and practical structure, while the yellow creates a deliberately enveloping and calming effect when sunlight filters through, emphasizing a meditative connection to nature.

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Courtesy of Studio Morison
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Courtesy of Studio Morison
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Courtesy of Studio Morison

The LEGO Group, Shanghai / Robarts Spaces

This LEGO office interior in Shanghai utilizes the classic LEGO yellow to reinforce the building’s branding but also to create a sense of friendliness and play correspondent to the company represented. However, the muted greys of the conference room and other working spaces maintain the reality of a professional workspace as well.

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© Zhi Xia
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© Zhi Xia
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© Zhi Xia
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© Zhi Xia
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© Zhi Xia

Vira-Lata / Moradavaga

This installation in Portugal combines the yellow of train carriages with the natural metal color of tin cans, reflecting its location next to Porto’s São Bento train station. The cans, which can be rotated by visitors to create original messages and drawings on the tower, emulate the informative train station screens that display departures and arrivals.

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Courtesy of Moradavaga
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Courtesy of Moradavaga
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Courtesy of Moradavaga

MIT Beaver Works / Merge Architects

A laboratory and research space for MIT students, faculty, and technical professionals, this design utilizes Pantone’s two colors as its main scheme, generating an atmosphere of creativity and positivity through the yellow but also technological forwardness and precision through the grey.

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© John Horner Photography
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© John Horner Photography
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© John Horner Photography
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© John Horner Photography
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© John Horner Photography

Kleinerdrei / PARAT

The target audience of this store in Hamburg is anyone under three years old; correspondingly, the furniture is all designed for young children and rendered in a playful yellow. However, the grey floor and walls also maintain a muted neutrality reflecting the store’s other functions as a shop and midwifery practice station.

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© mfruscella & dmanduzio
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© mfruscella & dmanduzio
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© mfruscella & dmanduzio
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© mfruscella & dmanduzio

Poly ShowRoom / waa

This salesroom event space utilizes grey and yellow for deliberate atmospheric functions. In the reception area, the yellow wall textile is intended to create a sense of warmth, lightness, and serenity. In the project display area, the grey scrim draws visitors into the exhibition space, rendering them participants in the events rather than passive viewers.

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© Hu Wenjie
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© Hu Wenjie
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© Hu Wenjie
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© Hu Wenjie

Jaramteo Kindergarten / KHY architects

This kindergarten in South Korea uses unburnt yellow clay bricks for its façade, giving the building a warm presence in the neighborhood while simultaneously blending in with the other brick houses in the area. This sense of warmth is augmented by the playful yellow storm sewer pipe and yellow geometrical windows. However, the grey elements counterbalance the yellow, ensuring that the design is not excessively ostentatious.

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© Hwang Hyo Chel
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© Hwang Hyo Chel
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© Hwang Hyo Chel
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© Hwang Hyo Chel
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© Hwang Hyo Chel

Public Housing Vilar 3 / Müller.Feijoo

This project in Orense, Spain, rehabilitated historic buildings and transformed them into public rental housing. The color palette here preserves the historic style and ambiance of the neighborhood while updating it for modern use.

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© Luis Diaz Diaz
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© Luis Diaz Diaz
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© Luis Diaz Diaz

Fallow Land Project / PLAYstudio + YES studio

This set of apartments reimagines traditional Viennese painted plaster facades using a bright yellow exterior and calm grey interiors. The unique and colorful façade was designed to create a recognizable city image for the neighborhood.

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© David Frutos
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© David Frutos
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© David Frutos
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© David Frutos

The Jean Bishop Integrated Care Centre / Medical Architecture

While the grey interiors and façade of this medical care center convey a solemnity and pause appropriate to the function of the structure, the yellow accents also maintain an aura of optimism and play. Formally, the architects have indicated that the bright yellow windows are meant to draw the eye and communicate a sense of structure and order within the facility.

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© Jill Tate
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© Jill Tate
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© Jill Tate
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© Jill Tate
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© Jill Tate

A Gabled Roof in Kawagoe / Tailored design Lab

This suburban home was designed for a family with young children in Japan. The yellow accents contribute to the house’s sense of openness and playfulness, complementing the neutral tones of the rest of the structure beautifully.

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© Yuji Nishijima
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© Yuji Nishijima
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© Yuji Nishijima

Multipurpose Hall Forum Karlín / A8000

The grey walls, exposed concrete, and graphic yellow accents all contribute to the slick industrial aesthetic of this multipurpose hall and forum. Located in a former industrial district in Prague, the atmosphere of the building correlates to the district’s current status as a revivified modern location with a recent industrial past.

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© Tomas Dittrich
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© Tomas Dittrich
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© Tomas Dittrich
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© Tomas Dittrich

Check out more inspiring examples in this folder with selected projects.

About this author
Cite: Lilly Cao. "Pantone’s Color of the Year 2021: Yellow and Grey in Architecture" 21 Dec 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/953768/pantones-color-of-the-year-2021-yellow-and-grey-in-architecture> ISSN 0719-8884

Stephanie & Kevin / Atelier Vens Vanbelle. Image Courtesy of Atelier Vens Vanbelle

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