Indigo Architect

The History of Indigo

If you write a blog, then you know how daunting it can be to choose a Domain Name for your blogsite.  Or maybe it was easy for you.  For me, it wasn’t as obvious.  After writing down about an hundred ideas, I kept coming back to the word Indigo and, being a sole proprietor, it only made sense to use the singular form of the title Architect.  Thus, Indigo Architect was born.

I like the color indigo.  It reminds me of architectural blueprints  and that’s why I chose it for the name of my blog.  In conducting due diligence of available domain names, I have come to realize that using indigo is a risky choice because it carries so many connotations.  Researching it on Google turned up a variety of websites such as  “Indigo Children” (about people who display certain and rare characteristics).  And if you’re an architect, you may recall from history class a famous architect named Inigo Jones  (click on his name to view images of his fabulous work based on Classical forms).  It turns out, Indigo is a popular name for companies- both IT and Architectural alike: see (web designers). There’s even a laboratory supply company with the name:

Every blogsite has an interesting backstory. Click here if you’d like to read about mine.

So having decidedly settled on IndigoArchitect as the Domain name, I thought to research the color ‘indigo’ itself to find out exactly what it’s all about- aside from the endless companies who’ve ‘pre-stolen’ the name (but, I’d like to note, the Northern California small architecture firm called Indigo has not registered the name on GoDaddy, so…).  Still, I wanted to make sure that the color indigo wasn’t associated with anything weird.


Back in 2003, on one of many bookstore excursions, I was overjoyed to spot an eye-catching cover and knew I had to buy it.  Not for any specific reason, but I figured it would come in handy some day.  Well that day is here.  As I prepared to write this blog, I reached up and pulled it down from the nearby shelf, flipping through it, passing by Ochre, Black and Brown, White, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, sure enough, there it was: Chapter 9- Indigo.  Violet is last in chapter 10. (And, the epilogue is the best part of the book.)


In reading about the history of indigo in this majestic and vividly detailed “travelogue-novel” titled *”Color- A Natural History of the Palette“, author Victoria Finlay paints a twisting tale of war, of struggles in growing the plant in different climates, of devastating sorrow as crop after crop failed, and of total markets collapsing as one country out-produced another.  She describes how the indigo plant was fought over and its importance in creating the rich blue hue of the police uniforms in Britain; and, among other things, it was later known as a healing tincture when it was first used to create a tattoo.

Determined to find the tall indigo tree she’d dreamt of as a child, author Victoria Finlay traveled to India to find the “last indigo plant” (see page 340 in her book- pictured above on the left). In doing so, she was pleased to meet a very special man, Dr. Munirenkatappa Sanjappa who had done his doctoral thesis on the indigo plant species. He was the Deputy Director of India’s most important herbarium and shared his own story of how he had camped at 17,000 feet altitude for forty days and daily climbed to 20,000 feet to find and gather his collection. There are 62 varieties in India and he collected 58 of them. (The main species name is Indigofera Tinctoria).

Indigo blue reminds me of old, architectural blueprints.  Its dark navy hue reminds me of a deep sea; yet on paper, its color is purely authentic and at once ephemeral and ethereal.

Indigo Dye in Pot, China

(Story from book, continued):

The author studied the Doctor’s face and wondered to herself: “Could Dr. Sanjappa tell me where in the gardens I could find some indigo? “There is none,” he said. “It is rather sad.” and we both reflected on how sad it was, and how extraordinary it was that – once again- cultivated indigo should so completely have disappeared from the land where it was born. And then Dr. Sanjappa remembered something. “Perhaps there is one: I saw it a few months back, growing wild. Perhaps it is still there– unless the gardener has cleared it.”

The story goes on to describe how when Dr. Sanjappa accompanied the author on her expedition to the place he’d marked on the map for her (about 2 kilometers away), she noticed he walked with a limp. Inquiring about it, he said to her, “Oh, it was just a polio infection when I was six months old.”

At that point, the author writes, “For Dr. Sanjappa, his search for indigo was nothing less than heroic.”

She continues on: “Our expedition included two drivers and three guards armed with lathis– the traditional Indian police sticks– who had leapt in the back of the car. “I do hope the indigo is still there,” Dr. Sanjappa said as we pulled up in an unpromising part of the forest.

“Yes, yes,” he exclaimed in excitement before we had even climbed out of the vehicle. And there it was, my Indigofera tinctoria, the possible seed descendant– I like to think– of the plants that Roxburgh had kept so long ago. And Dr. Sanjappa was right: I could never have found it on my own.”"

Blossoming Flowers in the Himalayan Spring Season


Ancient Woodwork in Fort, in remote Himalayan Mountain habitat near Kullu, India



Similar to traveling on a mysterious expedition in search of a rare artifact or a even a specific flower, I believe every architect has a unique story to tell about his path toward becoming an architect.  With 30% of architects out of work, according to some recent statistics, many of us have faced unbearable circumstances.  In many cases, some of us have chosen to branch out into other fields out of necessity and or to pursue related interests.

Still yet, I fully believe: Once an architect, always an architect. No matter what. I think it’s in our soul, in our DNA.

Just as the indigo plant must be carefully kneaded to produce the richest blue, sometimes, on our journeys, we, too, are crushed along the way.  We can use this experience to serve to make us humble, a bit more savvy, and further strengthen our resolve to persevere one way or another.  These are the questions I want to explore in this blog.  Just how does one continue to be an architect when the profession itself seems to be crumbling from beneath us?

Author Victoria Finlay closes out her chapter on Indigo (p.351) with this paragraph which, to me, is a metaphor for today’s architect, who is struggling against numerous outside forces:

“It wasn’t the grand indigo tree of my childhood dream, but something much more vulnerable.  And I like to think of it still growing there, holding out bravely against the weeds, a tiny legacy…”


Climber on Shivling Peak Background, The Himalayas



So, tell me your story.  What creative ways are you putting your talents to use?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

*Bibliography: COLOR: A Natural History of the Palette,” Victoria Finlay, c. 2002; c. 2004 Random House Trade Paperback Edition.



SPECIAL BOOK OFFER COMING UP NEXT WEEK: I’ll be blogging about BIM and the most cutting edge book written to date on the subject, “BIM and Integrated Design by architect and author Randy Deutsch, AIA, LEED-AP (find his website here).  Please check in next week for the opportunity to win one of two new copies that will be given away in a random drawing; details forthcoming at that time).  So, stay tuned!