Murals have many different functions. Some of them are created to inhabit places that would otherwise seem empty, some are to open up areas that block one in. One important function of murals is to give identity to otherwise uniform spaces.
At St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, Bridget Riley has designed three floors of striped murals in different colours in public spaces. These murals, as well as being beautiful and uplifting, serve another purpose and that is to identify where you are in the building. Hospitals are confusing places and the spaces are defined by these murals.
If one simply paints a wall with a line, below which is dark blue graduating to lighter blue and above is lighter blue graduating to darker blue it will entirely change the wall and it will be read as a seascape, even if there is nothing to suggest that the upper part is sky and the lower part is sea.
When depictions of people are included in the mural design it animates the space, it gives it significance and meaning. It can be a conversation piece with relevance to the location or the function of the place. It can act as the backdrop or stage to what is going on in the place where the mural is located.
Trompe l’oeil is a wonderful way of making spaces seem bigger or making something seem as though it is there when it is not. It can or hide not very beautiful architectural elements or it can add architectural elements to plain spaces.
Quotation from Michael Graves, American Architect:
“When I started my own practice, I was criticized, not because I was doing product design but because, like Le Corbusier, I was insisting on paintings in all of my buildings. I would paint wall murals in the houses that I designed, just as he did in the ’20s and ’30s.”