Theses Master's

How environment colors shape neighborhoods: the case of New York City

Sun, Jiabao

This paper focuses on colors of the environment and its purpose is to explore how environment colors influence neighborhoods and improve urban colors in cities for the future. Specifically, research questions focus on the spatial distribution of colors in selected neighborhoods and the correlation between colors of the environment and demographic as well as socioeconomic factors. Based on the above research questions, this study combines quantitative methods with qualitative interviews and observations to guide the analysis.

The quantitative part conducts image processing of Google Street View images to distinguish different color patterns, spatial distributions, and other environmental color features. An OLS regression model using demographic and socioeconomic data to figure out the relationship between demographic and socioeconomic factors and colors of the environment has also been run. The qualitative part adopts observations by the author and snowball sampling interviews with residents, urban planners, and designers, as well as policy makers to decline the bias generated by Google Street View images and to help this research be more practical by adding human-based features into the results.

The research finds that new developments are mainly gray and blue colors while old buildings are usually more red and brown colors. Also, recently developed areas tend to have less green as the dominant color than old brick building areas. As for color diversity, the neighborhood with more traditional buildings tends to have higher color diversity than the neighborhood which has more new developments. Color diversity values of different locations inside a neighborhood with similar building types or functions are similar. The OLS regression result shows that median household income and proportion of residential area have positive relationships with color diversity.

The quantitative data, qualitative interview results, and the researcher’s observations indicate that the manufacturing land use type has a high possibility to potentially decrease the color diversity of a neighborhood. Last, all interviewees deem that the colorful environment can contribute to better mental health status and there should be harmonious diverse color combinations inside a neighborhood. Based on above results, the author proposes four suggestions: increasing small-scale colorful urban infrastructure, greenery, landscape, and design; planning colors based on context, culture, function, and people’s opinions; raising people’s awareness of the importance of colors through various ways; necessary legislative control for some cities.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Sun_2022_How environment colors shape neighborhoods.pdf Sun_2022_How environment colors shape neighborhoods.pdf application/pdf 4.31 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Hong, Boyeong
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2022