Architecture is a design process that consists of planning, designing, executing various types of spaces. The two most important aspects of the design of a building are form and function. Architects influences elements of building design into an artistic statement.

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When the users observe the design identifies elements that appear on the building. These are the lines, shapes, volume, texture, color. Finally, the overall impression of the building determines its expressive elements. Those proportionally shaped patterns are then tied together and viewed as a whole. We interpret patterns differently from the way they exist. Gestalt psychology is a branch of psychology that studies how we perceive patterns.

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Colosseum_©upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/de/Colosseo_2020Colosseum_©upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/de/Colosseo_2020

Do you ever feel overwhelmed in a space because of the design?

Do you wonder why Roman architecture seems so appealing to you?

In many spaces, it is because the structure was built and designed according to proportion and scale, something which is rare in most modern buildings. 

Proportion and scale are critical elements of architecture. Proportion refers to the proper and harmonious relationship between different parts of the whole, while scale refers to the size of something about a standard, for architecture, human.

Proportion is derived from the Latin word proportion, which means “for the part,” or the relationship between portions. The human concept of beauty has been studied for thousands of years.

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The pleasing appearance to the eye is often the result of applying principles from mathematics and geometry in architecture. An individual’s taste is frequently a factor. When a building is designed, the aesthetic aspects can be satisfied through the use of the various principle of proportion. 

The sense of proportion has been created through people’s experiences, through their learning about human anthropology, nature, animals, and landscapes. The human body is often considered the main reference when it comes to measuring elements of space in architecture. Buildings, like the human body, have parts, and the parts in architecture can be linked together in a number of ways.

The classical architecture followed the principle that the relative size of objects should follow the proportions found in nature. Architects often followed the example of the human being as their model. The ancients theorized that man was accustomed to the proportions of the world around him.

As a result of the development of proportioning systems, it has become evident that proportion can be the aiding factor for the perceptions of buildings, providing an aesthetic rationale for the dimensions of form and space. Proportions can be used visually to unify the multiple elements of an architectural design. There have been numerous theories of proportion developed throughout history

Some of the theories of proportion are as below:

Theories of Proportion

1. Golden section

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The Greeks discovered that nature uses a proportion law, called the Golden Section, to produce things that are pleasing to the eye. One of the most famous ratios applied in architecture is the golden ratio 1:1.618, which is accompanied by the Fibonacci numbers. The Golden Ratio serves as an essential mathematical guideline when it comes to designing architectural structures.

Using the ideal human proportions defined by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci drew what is known as the “Vitruvian man”.

2. Classical orders

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Ancient Greeks and Romans used a classical order which expressed beauty and harmony to the fullest extent. A column’s diameter served as the unit of measurement for its shaft, capital, pedestal, and entablature.

3. Renaissance theories

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In the Renaissance, design theories were deeply influenced by the mathematical proportions of the Greeks. Pythagoras found that the ratios 1:2, 1:3, and 1:4 could be expressed in harmonious compositions based on the consonances of the Greek Musical System.

One of the most influential architects of all time, Andrea Palladio, explains a system of proportions that makes rooms beautiful in his book The Four Books of Architecture.

4. Modular

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As an architect, Le Corbusier worked with human proportions and Golden Section and developed a theory of proportion and dimensioning called Modular that uses Golden Section and human proportions.

5. Ken                

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This unit of measurement was originally developed by the Japanese to indicate the distance between two columns, but later it became standardized for residential architecture and became an absolute measurement.

Proportion in Architecture and Human Psychology

Ancient Greek and Roman architects emphasized the relationship between mathematics and aesthetics of architecture, which resulted in rules for designing and building. Taking this a step further, let’s examine how these rules affect conscious and subconscious minds.

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The interplay between what we see with our eyes and what we perceive with our brains determines how we perceive beauty. People’s brain scans reveal a profound emotional response to visuals based on adequate aesthetic principles. People’s brains are constantly responding to what they see and feel.

The crucial thing to understand here is that our subconscious mind is built to respond positively or negatively to certain stimuli. It is an inherent characteristic of our brains to recognize visually pleasing things. 

It is said that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, genuine details and materials based on the fundamental principles of structure and proportion are universally appealing. It’s all about perspective, and how to communicate through form!

References:

Books

  1. Scholfield, P., 2011. The theory of proportion in architecture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Le Corbusier, 1900. Modulor, The. [Place of publication not identified]: Faber.
  3. Wilson Jones, M., 2009. Principles of Roman architecture. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Online sources

  1. Hurst, A., 2021. Proportion – A Principle of Art. [online] Thevirtualinstructor.com. Available at: <https://thevirtualinstructor.com/blog/proportion-a-principle-of-art> [Accessed 21 November 2021].
  2. Your Own Architect. 2021. Proportion and Scale in Architecture – Your Own Architect. [online] Available at: <https://www.yourownarchitect.com/proportion-and-scale-in-architecture/> [Accessed 21 November 2021].
  3. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.oldhouseguy.com/aesthetics-the-solution/> [Accessed 21 November 2021].
  4. En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Proportion (architecture) – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportion_(architecture)> [Accessed 21 November 2021].
  5. The-mind-of-architecture.blogspot.com. 2021. What is : Proportion ?. [online] Available at: <https://the-mind-of-architecture.blogspot.com/2015/11/what-is-proportion.html> [Accessed 21 November 2021].
Author

Kishan Thakkar is an architect based in Ahmedabad exploring creative outlets and entrepreneurship. He is an avid learner who has a penchant for research, analysis and understanding different fields within the architecture and aspires to promote sustainable development. Discipline is the key to balance his diversified interest and work routine.

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