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Beauty: A Manifesto

Beauty in design is a topic rarely discussed in depth.  It is based on the notion of perception, the process by which organisms interpret and organize sensation to produce a meaningful experience.The act of perception occurs frequently in our daily life, and often subconsciously.  I recently experienced a work titled Disc, a 6’ tall circular form, by the American designer Jonathan Muecke.  As I approached the work, I was not analyzing the design process or symbology of the piece, but rather the ambiguous black mass acted as a gravitational force on my body.  My chest felt tight; my hands grew moist.  Was this the feeling of beauty?

Philosophers and psychologists often question the definition of beauty. I find the most intriguing view coming from the English art critic, John Ruskin.  Ruskin states, “The most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance.”  In professions frequently focused on function, design and architecture often stray from the element of beauty.  I believe it is crucial for the design profession, especially now in difficult cultural and environmental troubles, to embrace architectural peacocks such as Muecke’s Disc.

 

1. Peter Lindsay & Donald A. Norman: Human Information Processing: An Introduction to Psychology, 1977.

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Rock

Porcelain

Rock is a reference to the first known man-made object of beauty, the Acheulian hand axe.  The axes were not used for function, but rather produced for their beauty.  Rock is an abstracted interpretation produced in porcelain, an ironically delicate material.  The notion of beauty is carried out in the pure teardrop form, basic symmetry, and subtle clues of handcraft.

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SANAA on Beauty

“…Think of the Venice Architecture Biennial this year, where SANAA architect Kazuyo Sejima is the director. She said, ‘When I select, I look for beauty.’ The Dutch architect Florian Idenburg, who was her project manager for the New Museum in New York, also stated in an interview with the Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant ‘The ambivalence fascinates me, I discovered the mystic side of architecture, the art of seduction. I learned the intuitive method, not with a prefabricated image but from my tummy.”

 

It seems that the diagram-loaded, ‘here’s the whole picture’ architecture of today is pushing the profession in the opposite direction of beauty.  Idenburg emphasizes the elements of mystery and seduction as tools to trigger the human emotion.  If we are given the whole picture of a project, what else is there to discover?  I keep tying these thoughts to the art field, a profession where one rarely stands in front of their work to explain every detail.  Art’s ambiguity allows for the users emotions to be triggered…and interpreted differently by different people.

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Lebbeus Woods on Beauty

Lebbeus Woods’ article is a response to the publication“Architecture and Beauty” by Yael Reisner. 
Below is a great quote regarding Frank Gehry:

“Gehry firmly rejects the notion that self-expression is a capricious act within the design process. Conversely, he believes that signature and democracy are integrally interlinked and, in fact, when an architect surpresses his or her emotions within the design process, it is an act that ‘talks down to people’ and does not allow a full engagement with architecture. Certainly, the role of self-expression and its legitimacy in architecture is a familiar issue within architectural discourse, and one that resurfaces with a sense of self-righteousness with the digital realm. As a result, Gehry’s position is consolidated by years of battling criticism that his architecture is too derivative of the art world—too sculptural and expressive. His response to this critique is clear and direct: ‘To deny the validity of self-expression is akin to not believing in democracy—it’s a basic value—if you believe in democracy then you must allow for personal expression.”

 

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Understanding Beauty in Architecture

The article, “Understanding Beauty in Architecture” touches on the notion of our brain’s response to beauty. The article suggests that there are a few universal elements of beauty found in architecture such as grids, zigzags, spirals and curves.

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Le Corbusier: Painter

Le Corbusier: Painter

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Modern Homes in Popular Films

I am interested in looking at this film in relation to modern homes in popular films and the people that live in them.  A great deal of literature analyzes the fact that the majority of modern homes in films are occupied by villains.  This is famously illustrated in films such as Big Lebowski, Blade Runner, and numerous James Bond Films.  The majority of these homes are found in southern California and designed by John Lautner, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Richard Neutra.  This film is not Corbusier’s film debut.  The Bond film “You Only Live Twice” houses its villain in a Japanese Corbusier interior. These theories suggest that all of these characters do morally questionable things to one extent or another.  This personality trait references modernisms cold aesthetic and its general lack of humanist qualities.  The film gradually reveals these questionable qualities of the main character (egoism, judgmental views, and an attempt at infidelity).  I believe the choice of this house, as a character in the film was a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers.  It illustrates their strategy to continue this debate of modern architecture in film.

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Beauty and Architecture: Quality of Light

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Beauty and Architecture: Composition

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Beauty and Architecture: Proportion

 

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