When city officials debated on a color for the Golden Gate Bridge, the case was made that the steel primer already on the towers would be the best complement to the green hills, blue skies and the summer fog blankets. Today the one-of-a-kind paint lives in an underground bunker, enough to cover more than 10 million square feet of surface area, and a twenty-eight man team of painters retouch the bridge continuously, though the Sisyphean myth of endless end-to-end work is not quite reality. What’s true–architect Irving Morrow made the right color call. Below, an excerpt from his 29-page case for international orange.
THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE: REPORT ON COLOR AND LIGHTING (APRIL 6, 1935)
1. Local Atmospheric Effects
During summer, the San Francisco Bay area is covered by high fogs and is relatively sunless. At these times the atmosphere is gray. In sunny weather the predominant color of bay and ocean is blue. In other words, the prevalent atmospheric colors are cool. A structure which is to be emphasized must appear in contrasting or warm colors.
2. The Color
Except during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, local architecture has remained on the whole timidly colorless, hence without the accent and warmth which conditions call for. The colors which meet the above requirements range through yellow, orange and red. Not all, however, are equally appropriate from other points of view. Yellow shades would lack substance: deep reds would be heavy and without luminosity. During the erection of the north tower, and again at the present moment with the south tower assuming form, observers from all walks of life have been universally impressed by the beauty of the structures in the shop red lead coat. This color is luminous, undergoes atmospheric changes with great beauty, is prominent without insistence, enhances the architectural scale to the utmost and gives weight and substance at the same time...In short, it is the ideal color from every point of view, and is hereby recommended and urged as the most appropriate and satisfactory color for the finished bridge.