Is Beauty in our DNA?

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Fractals in nature.

Driving in to the office today I noticed that the Paloverde Trees are just beginning to bloom.  I think it’s going to be a breath taking spring which got me to thinking about beauty, its importance and wondering why we love beautiful things.

For 1000’s of years scientists and artists have known of the unique golden rectangle.  If you subtract a square from a golden rectangle what is left is another golden rectangle.  The common proportions are (5 by 8) are everywhere; books, television sets and credit cards.  The facades of the Parthenon and Notre Dame and even the original iPod are golden rectangles.  It’s really simple geometry.  Our eyes can scan an image fastest when its shape is a golden rectangle.  This simple shape speeds up our ability to see the world.  Duke University demonstrated this in 2009.

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The Parthenon – a golden triangle.

We know that certain patterns have great appeal; turns out they are natural fractals.  These are irregular, self similar geometry that appears everywhere in nature; snowflakes, leaves, tree shapes to name a few.  Turns out that we prefer certain mathematical densities of fractals – not to thick, not to sparse.  The thinking is that certain shapes like trees are stored in our genetic memory from the beginning of time.  Maybe beauty is in the genes of the beholder.

Last year scientists found that when we glance at the color green it boosts creativity and motivation.  The thinking is that colors associated with food bearing plants promise nourishment.

We think of great architecture as art; however every great designer knows that it is the result of careful application of the geometry of the spaces, the color and textures of the finished and the essential use of the building.  It’s kind of like the Supreme Courts take on pornography; it’s hard to describe but you know it when you see it.  We instinctively know great design when we encounter it; we feel it viscerally.  Great buildings envelope you make your heart soar.


The Parthenon – a golden triangle.