Architecture is similar to compositional art in that each component and proportion is carefully chosen and arranged to create a cohesive visual story. A spectator is given a clear idea or concept via a non-ambiguous architectural visual or sight. Therefore, axial symmetry in architecture is also the arrangement of design components in a mirror image on either side of an axis, which is a hypothetical line. Suppose one intends to develop visual order, whether consciously or subconsciously, there are rules to follow. Axial symmetry makes it easier for the brain to analyze objects or structures, segment images, and represent them. Axial symmetry decreases the amount of information the brain must process.

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Paris, Palace of Versailles ©www.lelongweekend.com/historical-places-in-france-you-must-visit/

Axis, symmetry, hierarchy, transformation, data, rhythm, pattern, and repetition all fall under the category of the orderly principle.

These elements work in unison to create a harmonic, balanced, and cohesive framework. Usually, there are many types of symmetry in most structures. Symmetry is used by architects in a variety of ways, either in plans, facades, or both. There are many other kinds of symmetry (including rotating and reflecting, cylindrical, chiral, symmetry of similarity, and progressive symmetry). Still, bilateral and radial symmetry are frequently utilized in architecture.

History

If we pay great attention to every environmental component, we may easily detect symmetry in anything.

Axial symmetry has a long history in architecture, going back to ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and the Renaissance. It was the fundamental organizing idea for most ancient civilizations’ large-scale projects. A history of architecture spanning more than 1500 years demonstrates how symmetry has played a major role in the evolution of architectural space. Regarding architecture, precise axial symmetry in ancient Rome produced colossal, motionless rooms that reflected equilibrium rather than dynamic energy.

Given that the human body has a right side, a left side, a back, and a front, with the navel in the exact center, Leonardo da Vinci’s renowned picture likely explains why human eyes find architectural symmetry pleasing to the eye and visually fulfilling.

The Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The Taj Mahal features A striking symbol of the classification of aristocratic society under centralized authority, bilateral symmetry with a central accent is generally acknowledged as an organizing principle of the architecture of rulers aiming for absolute power. It also expresses the ruling force that creates balance and harmony. The use of color in a die-hierarchical pattern is remarkable since it is symmetrical down to the tiniest decorative detail. The use of materials such as marble and red sandstone is typical of Imperial Mughal architecture.

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The Taj Mahal ©unsplash.com/photos/oFMLFqJxdMk?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink
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Close up details of The Taj Mahal ©unsplash.com/photos/QWiV-Qc8tfg?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

This mosque is a fusion of architectural styles from various eras and nations.  The Mameluke, Moroccan, and Andalusia architecture served as inspiration for the design of Spire Square.  The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s overall structure is a flawless synthesis of Moorish, Persian, Arab, and Mughal architectural styles. Between the masses and the space, the arches successfully realize the value of architectural symmetry. In the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the architect balanced the arches to provide a sense of solidity via a keen understanding of the composition. 

The idea of architectural unity created throughout the years to reflect the oneness of the religion that it symbolizes was kept by the value of rhythm, balance, ratio, and proportion between arches of diverse characters by splitting the facade into several geometrical arches and allowing the transition from one surface to the next to occur in continuity, unity is achieved without any addition or deletion.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque ©unsplash.com/photos/72miDopuU2s?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink
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Symmetrical internal column disposition ©unsplash.com/photos/l29Pju_7-y4?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

The Forbidden City in China

The Forbidden City in China, which served as the major imperial palace throughout China’s final two dynasties, the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912), contains the greatest medieval palace architecture in the whole world.

The Forbidden City’s design is axially symmetrical. The principal palaces are symmetrically situated on each side of the center axis, which runs from south to north. Like most traditional Chinese architecture, it is split between an outer court in the south and an inner court in the north. A rectangular wall 10 meters (10.9 yards) high and a moat 52 meters wide surround it (57 yards).

The Meridian Gate in the south, the Gate of Divine Prowess in the north, the East Prosperity Gate in the east, and the West Prosperity Gate in the west are the four symmetrical gates that border the wall.  

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The forbidden city  ©unsplash.com/photos/LfExVKjGgY0?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink
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Close up view of the forbidden city ©unsplash.com/photos/H-riqP9H1vM?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

Baha’i Gardens in Haifa, Israel

The Haifa Bahai Gardens are a stairway made up of nineteen terraces that climb the north face of Mount Carmel. The City of Akko, which also holds significant historical and religious significance for Baha’i, is connected to it by an axis that forms the center of the intricate geometry.

An interplay of light and shadow, the use of water features and repeating geometric patterns like circles and eight-pointed stars, and the ceding of symmetrical designs to asymmetrical components out of respect for history or nature, are all features shared by Bahá’s gardens. In addition, the contrast of dense and wide regions, frequently with a gradual merging that softens boundary lines inside the garden and at the site’s border, produces a transition space or buffer that fosters harmony between the site and its surroundings.

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Bahai temple, Haifa ©www.click-tours.com/bahai-gardens/
Rear view of the Bahai garden ©www.therichest.com/location/10-of-the-worlds-most-famous-religious-sites/

References:

  1. Symmetry in architecture. [online]. Available at: https://en.unansea.com/symmetry-in-architecture/ [Accessed 8 July 2022].
  2. Richa Parmar (2017). The Symmetry in Architecture: All you Need to Know!. [online]. (Last updated 24th June, 2017). Available at: https://gharpedia.com/blog/the-symmetry-in-architecture/  [Accessed 08 July 2022].
  3. Nikos A. Salingaros. Symmetry Gives Meaning to Architecture – Beauty, Neuroscience & Architecture. [online]. Available at: https://neuro-architectology.com/symmetry-gives-meaning-to-architecture/  [Accessed 08 July 2022].
  4. Jackie Craven (2018). Symmetry and Proportion in Design. [online]. (Last updated July 17, 2018). Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/symmetry-and-proportion-in-design-177569  [Accessed 08 July 2022].
  5. Architecture.Tajmahal.gov.in. [online].Available at: https://www.tajmahal.gov.in/architecture.aspx#:~:text=Symmetry%20along%20two%20sides%20of%20a%20central%20axis%2C,can%20be%20found%20in%20the%20Taj%20Mahal%20Complex.   [Accessed 09 July 2022].
  6. Forbidden City Layout – Outer Court and Inner Court in Axisymmetry. [online]. (Last updated Jun. 01, 2021). Available at:   https://www.travelchinaguide.com/forbidden-city-layout.htm [Accessed 10 July 2022].
Author

Nadjath is an architecture graduate, traveler, and part-time freelance writer. She believes that the built and unbuilt environments are more than just about form and function. In a fast-growing culture where people are reading less and less, she is enthusiastic about transmitting the essence of architecture via words.

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