Croydon: Let’s paint the town red. And blue. And green.


By - Friday 24th April, 2015

After recently taking on Croydon’s miserablists, Jonny Rose wonders if a makeover could help


Our environment affects our mood

Since the earliest times, humans have needed to be sensitive to their surroundings to survive.

Fast forward to modern times and we continue to retain that innate awareness: instinctively seeking out environments with certain qualities or to achieve certain aims.

The environment can facilitate or discourage interactions among people. For example, an inviting space with comfortable chairs and privacy can encourage a family members and visitors to stay for longer than if they are left standing.

The environment can influence people’s behaviour and motivation to act. For example, a dingy school corridor will invite pupils to make a mess, whereas a clean corridor and adequate storage will encourage pupils to take the time to put items away.

The environment can also influence mood. For example, the results of several research studies reveal that rooms with bright light, both natural and artificial, can improve health outcomes such as depression, agitation, and sleep.

There is a great deal of rigorous research that links the physical environment of hospitals to health outcomes. According to Ulrich and Zimming, authors of the 2004 report, The Role of the Physical Environment in the 21st Century Hospital, there are more than 600 credible studies that show how aspects of healthcare design can influence medical outcomes. I have every confidence that these same lessons can be extended to the built environment in towns and city centres as well.

Croydon’s environment is dull and grey

Recently I looked at the perennial miserablism of Croydonians and tried to analyse some of the causes, from the genetic to the atmospheric.

It’s well known that ‘we become our environment’ and Croydon’s built environment is dull, grey and depressing. Brutalism may have its fans, but it most certainly has its detractors, too.

As Tom Lickley conceded in his paean to Croydon’s Brutalism, it is viewed as:

Grim, concrete carbuncles. Windy, dark alleyways. Oppressive, inaccessible monoliths. Gruesome infrastructure, defined by a shadowy underpass and a dull flyover cutting through the heart of Croydon’s town centre.

The result, I’d suggest, is a population that has an attitudinal bias towards its surroundings.

A lick of paint would go a long way

Substantial changes to Croydon’s environment are usually costly, timely and laborious. These problems are compounded by bureaucracy to the point where they become the sole preserve of councils or private developers with the resource to surmount these challenges.

Thankfully, an increasing amount of Croydonians – like the guerilla gardeners of Park Hill – are finding their own ways to change the environment for the better, with minimum fuss. However, I believe there are some more easy wins to engender town pride and distinctiveness that many would argue is missing right now. Chiefly, by making the exterior of buildings brighter, more colourful and more vibrant.

Colour has always been important – from natural warnings in primitive times to mood enhancers in modern homes. ‘Colour psychology’ and ‘colour therapy’ are both serious practices that profess to have a determinate effect on the behaviours of subjects.

It strikes me, then, that whilst Croydon may be stuck with the oppressive structures of 1960s town planning, we don’t have to be lumbered with their uninspiring facades. Let’s build on the colourful euphoria of Femme Fierce’s work and paint Croydon town red. And blue. And green.

So, who’s up for a spot of DIY?

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Terry Coleman

    And a lick or two of the jolly old Brilliant White would not go amiss either, for my money at least.

  • Anne Giles

    I just love colour and usually try to wear colourful clothes, also driving a red car. In that photograph most of the cars seem to be black.

  • Bernadette Fallon

    Oh I don’t know – nothing wrong occasionally with a bit of urban grittiness, it’s all in how you perceive it …

  • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

    I’m with you Jonny. I remember when the old Phillips HQ became the Fusion apartments I was so happy to see a bit of colour with a random pattern. Even on a dull rainy day Saffron Squares tower is a welcome monolith of colour. This image is a lil extreme but a great example of how some of the office to residential conversions could be. I’d be up for this.

  • Terry Coleman

    Slightly off colours I know but I do think a tad more window cleaning from the commercial premises sector would brighten things up.