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Vote: Architectural Curves or Right Angles

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On February 18th


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National Congress of Brazil Oscar Niemeyer Architect via escuyer.tumblr.comvia


Oscar Niemeyer was one of the most important architects of the 20th century and he did not like angles. “Right angles don’t attract me. Nor straight, hard and inflexible lines created by man,” he wrote in his 1998 memoir The Curves of Time. ” I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire universe, the curved universe of Einstein.” via theaustrailian.com.au and gizmodo  *great Niemeyer architecture images

Was he ahead of his time, anticipating the direction of architecture?


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People are far more likely to call a room beautiful when its design is round instead of linear. What about architecture, curves versus angles? The reason may be hard-wired into the brain. There have been recent studies by neuroscientists that conclude, “Curvature appears to affect our feelings, which in turn could drive our preference.” It’s also critical to point out that just because people have a natural neural affinity for curves doesn’t mean round design is always superior. If researchers asked people to rate architecture based on functionality instead of beauty, for instance, they might get different results.

CoDesign, in their post Why Our Brains Love Curvy Architecture shared: When the great architect Philip Johnson first visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, he started to cry. “Architecture is not about words. It’s about tears,” Johnson reportedly said. Something about the museum’s majestic curves moved him at an emotional level.


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Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Architect Frank Gehry
image via scarflove.tumblr.com


Curves are making big statements on skylines around the world from the exquisite (in my humble opinion) Guggenheim Bilbao to London’s “Gherkin” ,  the “Marilyn Monroe” Towers in Ontario, many of Zaha Hadid’s Designs, Calatrava, and the Apple Campus 2 — its massive new headquarters designed by starchitect Norman Foster.


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The Gherkin, Architect Norman Foster
Curved buildings can point to nature, whereas angular buildings contrast with it
Paul Silvia, assistant professor of psychology


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Monroe Curves, Absolute Towers by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects


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Calatrava via voguevoyager.tumblr.com



Curved or angular, do you have a preference?

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Some of the rooms had a round style like this
Courtesy Oshin Vartanian via CNN

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Others had a rectilinear form, like this
Courtesy Oshin Vartanian via CNN


In short, what we learned from our research and fastco.design’s work, “Time and again, when people are asked to choose between an object that’s linear and one that’s curved, they prefer the latter. That goes for watches with circular faces, letters rendered in a curly font, couches with smooth cushions–even dental floss with round packaging.

3 Responses

  1. Charu Says:

    This is such a tough question! While I was in design school I was a fan of curves, in architecture, interiors as well as objects! As I’m growing as a designer I’ve come to learn that everything has it’s place. Linear forms are just as beautiful when they are of the right proportion and of the right material!

    Posted on February 18th, 2014 at 11:05 pm

  2. admin Says:

    Charu, thanks for your thoughts. I have typically been drawn towards angles and straight lines…guess I am in the minority from the stats. I will say that currently one of my favorite architects is Frank Owen Gehry,and his Guggenheim Bilbao, and Univ.of Iowa building.

    Posted on February 20th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

  3. Curis joe Says:

    Awesome.Great post

    Posted on February 21st, 2014 at 1:52 pm

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