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Not sure if this is primarily history, but it's also history in any case. I think the question fits much better here than on the graphical design SE.

In any case there seems to be a tradition with turquoise paint in Russian architecture. There's a reddit thread about it which suggests it was a Soviet trend based on a study that claimed it would be the most “calming” color. While it's true that I've seen soviet interior turquoise wall paint (interestingly enough can't find any examples), and someone from Aviation SE noticed it in plane cockpits, I think it's a far broader trend. Maybe it's also two trends which happen to share a colour.

Russian imperial architecture also features turquoise prominently, e.g.

The Mariinsky Theater: enter image description here

The Winter Palace: enter image description here

As well as any number of lesser known buildings seen via various image searches.

Any idea if this phenomenon has a name, or if there's any information on its origin?

Some other popular colour “trends” in architecture are given by local building materials. That's for example red sandstone in southwestern Germany, red sandstone (“brownstone”) in New York, turquoise (referring to the mineral) domes in central Asia, and white marble in Italy. But this turquoise is clearly paint, so a more deliberate design decision.

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    A short note: turquoise on imperial buildings seems a relatively modern thing. Pre-revolution photos show the Winter Palace as red: pastvu.com/_p/a/9/3/x/93xxiy14sm2fy6be1a.jpg
    – Petr
    Feb 28 at 8:44
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    This question got me curious about its significance in Native American cultures. I'm currently wearing some turquoise inherited from my Osage father. Amusingly, when I looked it up, the first paper (yes, in English) I found on that topic was from someone out of the University of Moscow.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 28 at 14:16
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    We need at least one question for every color if you ask me... history.stackexchange.com/questions/59141/…
    – Brian Z
    Feb 29 at 3:19
  • @BrianZ but that other question's answers seem to contradict this one's 🤔
    – TheChymera
    Apr 5 at 8:41

2 Answers 2

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It's entirely modern.

In 1840, the Winter Palace wasn't teal. This page has a lovely timeline of how its color changed in the moist Baltic climate from beige to ochre, before being painted...bright red in 1913. It only got its present color in 1947. enter image description here

And this happened a lot. Here is a news story about another "historical" teal building - and the controversy around architects restoring it from its beloved modern teal color to historical beige.

Why did this happen? The paint was readily available, and according to КГИОП (the municipal preservation authority), post-war restoration workers didn't take into account what buildings originally looked like, and were instructed simply to use color that would help the white window frames, pillars, and other embellishments of the façade pop.

Реставраторы XX века не слишком вдавались в историю. Поскольку здание числилось как постройка в необарочном стиле, то и оформили его соответствующе... Это был шаблонный подход того времени.

20th century restoration didn't trouble itself with history. The building was classified as neo-baroque, and therefore painted appropriately... This was the standardized approach at the time.

Teal was not the only color used - even a brief survey of restored Russian neo-Baroque buildings will show you a kaleidoscope of yellows, pinks, blues, and greens - but perhaps it stands out to a foreign observer as the most unusual.

The control panel side of things is unrelated - they are that way because it's the biggest contrast with the black & red of instrument displays - but it is not even the same shade as the building color to begin with.

However, the surplus of blue & green pigment from the military-industrial complex led to it commonly being used in mixing paint for Khrushchev-era construction, where the stereotype really comes from: not the majestic "Zimniy" but the squalor of the Khrushchevka.

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  • If that was the timing, I'd wonder if the change didn't have something to do with the Social Realisim art style popular in the mid 20th Century, particularly in Communist countries. Teal seems to be well within that style's typical pastel palette.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 28 at 18:50
  • I don't see the connection @T.E.D. - culturally, Social Realism was about rejecting the "Trotskyist excesses" of Constructivism and painting Comrade Stalin standing next to rosy-cheeked peasants holding babies. Turquoise didn't feature particularly prominently, either.
    – SPavel
    Feb 28 at 18:53
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It would be quite difficult to precisely date the era it started as a way to use the colour (and not only the stone) and paint buildings with turquoise, or why people started to like and use it, but there are clues, about the colour, its symbolism and use.

First, the colour itself is saif to protect, bring serenity, luck and many other states of mind.

  1. Meaning of the Color Turquoise: Symbolism, Common Uses, & More
  2. Symbolism of Turquoise Color
  3. Turquoise Color Meaning

In Russia and Central Asia turquoise are both strongly associated with the interiors of the large mosques and domes, similar to Iran. Some say that in Russia, turquoise also symbolizes love.1

Second, the religion. Here are some pictures of mosques in Russia. Most domes or inside have turquoise on/in it. Nurulla, Vladikavkaz, StPetersburg, Al Fozan... Mosques in Russia (see below).

According to the Bible, the first gemstone listed in the second row of the High Priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:18) could possibly be turquoise. The word for the gemstone in this location is nophek (Strong's Concordance #H5306). [...] The possibility exists, however, that nophek could better be rendered as "turquoise" given that six out of the ten Bible versions used for comparison purposes in this series translate it as such. These same six Biblical translations also translate nophek, stated as the eighth stone which adorned the symbolic King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:13) which represented a fallen Lucifer, as "turquoise." Bible study

And there are catholics and orthodox in Russia. So, no matter what the religion might be, that color is associated with it. The Spiritual Meaning of Turquoise in the Bible

According to my research about that matter, and the little I know about stones and colours (and what people attach to them), it looks like the turquoise color has popular and religious meanings. That would be enough to put it on buildings and jewelry for instance. And that's a possible explanation of the use of it, beyond the fact that it's just (another) beautiful stone/colour that people like.


enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here


1. citation needed

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  • Maybe a comment about the way to improve that answer would help? Or what makes it wrong?
    – OldPadawan
    Feb 28 at 13:34
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    I'm sorry but this is all speculation using Western sources for "color meanings" and universalizing them to another culture. And those mosques are clearly blue rather than turquoise.
    – SPavel
    Feb 28 at 14:46
  • I mentioned the domes in the original question, I'm pretty sure that's just to mimic the central asian domes inspired by the relatively high availability of locally sourced turquoise gemstones and probably unrelated to the russian green wall paint.
    – TheChymera
    Feb 28 at 22:39
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    @SPavel: Color terminology is fraught. I would describe the color in these pictures as "turquoise" and that in the OP's pictures as "green". (But your overall point is quite valid.)
    – ruakh
    Feb 29 at 2:55

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