The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, are two of the world’s most iconic buildings. They both evoke passionate emotions, even love, despite being on opposite ends of the historical and architectural spectrum.
In both buildings shape, size, scale, proportion, texture, color, and light work together to spectacular effect, but very simple structures can also be designed to bring aesthetic pleasure.
What makes things pleasing to our eyes, and how can the design of everything from majestic buildings to simple utilitarian structures bring delight?
For centuries, there has been documented evidence that people have preferences for structures in the built environment and in the natural environment that have certain geometric proportions known as the golden ratio or golden proportion.
The ratio of length to width of approximately 1.618 appears not only in art and architecture, but also in natural structures.
Kimberly Elam’s book, Geometry of Design: Studies in Proportion and Composition, points out that things in nature as different as
the human body, the pine cone, and the trout all share natural proportioning systems that provide the foundation for all art, architecture, and design.
- Alfred North Whitehead, Mathemetician
On photography and geometry:
“For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.”
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
“Let no one destitute of geometry enter my doors.” - Plato