The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Natural Design

I've always hewed to the belief that we respond instinctively to natural beauty, and that capturing aspects of natural beauty is what makes for pleasing art and architecture. This is a commonplace in the art world, although exactly how "natural beauty" gets defined is at the core of a lot of historical debate: Classicists - the more rationally-minded - point to symmetry and mathematical proportion, while Romantics - who might be called organicists - focus on dynamic equilibrium and more and less abstracted naturalistic ornament.

All of this throat-clearing is just to note that I was struck this morning as I filled our Brita pitcher. Our faucet has lost a washer, and so the water spritzes out a bit, and as the stream entered the opening, droplets of water accumulated on the adjacent lid. And they did so in a pattern that was lovely. With a bit more forethought, I would've taken a photo, but you'll just have to picture a fan of droplets, bigger at the base (closer to the stream), tapering towards the edge of the gravity- and water pressure-defined distribution. Not entirely dissimilar to a peacock's fan, actually.

It never ceases to amaze me how simple, natural patterns like this please the eye. And of course fractal geometry has taught us that the distinction I made up above is superficial - once you get beyond the surface circumstances of symmetry and ornament, both schools of thought are looking at the same truth. Our minds, evolved in this world, respond with subconscious delight to the forms and arrangements that follow from natural laws.

The trick is reliably echoing natural beauty in artificial design. I'll let you know when I get there.



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