The backstory of Greenland’s colourful houses
You might think that Greenland’s eye-catching multi-coloured buildings have been painted in a variety of colours as Instagram bait for visitors or to add brightness to a landscape that lacks colour. That, however, could not be further from the truth.
The colour coding of buildings and houses in Greenland dates back to its 18th-Century colonial era, when wooden houses were sent up from Scandinavia as timber kits. There were no house numbers or street names so all buildings were one of five base colours – red, black, yellow, green and blue – and each colour had a specific meaning.
What the colours signified
Red buildings signified churches, schools, teachers’ or ministers’ houses. Yellow colours were assigned to hospitals, doctors, and health care personnel. Green was at first the symbol for radio communication and later became the colour of telecommunications. The colour blue was often reserved for fish factories. Police stations were black.
The reasoning behind the colour coordination was, of course, to make it easier to distinguish between the houses and to create a system in a time before street names and house numbers.
Free to choose colour
Owners today are free to paint their abode in any colour they choose. As a nod to the past, some churches remain red, while hospitals continue to be yellow.
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