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Geometry and Architecture

How Is Geometry Used in Architecture?

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Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of the Vitruvian Man

Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of the Vitruvian Man

Image: Juniperimages Corporation
Architecture begins with geometry. Since earliest times, architects have relied on mathematical principles. The ancient Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius believed that builders should always use precise ratios when constructing temples. "For without symmetry and proportion no temple can have a regular plan," Vitruvius wrote in his famous treatise De Architectura, or Ten Books on Architecture (compare prices).

The proportion Vitruvius recommended was modeled after the human body. He observed that all human beings are shaped according to a ratio that is astonishingly precise and uniform. For example, Vitruvius found that the human face equals one tenth of the total body height. The foot equals one sixth of the total body height. And so on.

Scientists and philosophers later discovered that the same ratio Vitruvius saw in the human body – 1 to PHI (1.618) – exists in every part of nature, from swimming fish to swirling planets. This divine ratio, or divine proportion, has been called the building block of all life.

Are our buildings shaped by sacred numbers and hidden codes?

Sacred geometry, or spiritual geometry, is the belief that numbers and patterns such as the divine ratio have sacred significance. Many mystical and spiritual practices, including astrology, numerology, tarot, and feng shui, begin with a fundamental belief in sacred geometry. Architects and designers may draw upon concepts of sacred geometry when they choose particular geometric forms to create pleasing, soul-satisfying spaces.

Absurd? Before you dismiss the idea of sacred geometry, take a few moments to reflect on the ways some numbers and patterns appear again and again in every part of your life.

Geometry in Your Body
When studied under the microscope, living cells reveal a highly ordered system of shapes and patterns. From the shape of your DNA to the cornea of your eye, every part of your body follows the same predictable patterns.

Geometry in Your Garden
The jigsaw puzzle of life is made up of recurring shapes and numbers. Leaves, flowers, seeds, and other living things share the same spiral shapes. Honeybees and other insects live structured lives that mimic these patterns. When we create a floral arrangement or walk through a labyrinth, we celebrate nature’s innate forms.

Geometry in Stones
Nature’s archetypes are reflected in the crystalline forms of gems and stones. Amazingly, the patterns found in your diamond engagement ring may resemble the formation of snowflakes and the shape of your own cells.

Geometry in the Sea
Similar shapes and numbers are found beneath the sea, from the swirl of a nautilus shell to the movement of the tides.

Geometry in the Heavens
Nature’s patterns are echoed in the movement of planets and stars and the cycles of the moon. Perhaps this is why astrology lies at the heart of so many spiritual beliefs.

Geometry in Music
The vibrations we call sound follow sacred, archetypal patterns. For this reason, you may find that certain sound sequences can stimulate the intellect, inspire creativity, and evoke a deep sense of joy.

Geometry and the Cosmic Grid
Stonehenge, metalithic tombs, and other ancient sites stretch across the globe along underground electromagnetic tracks, or ley lines. The energy grid formed by these lines suggest sacred shapes and ratios.

Geometry and Theology
In his best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code (compare prices), author Dan Brown used concepts of sacred geometry to weave a spell-binding tale about conspiracy and early Christianity. Brown's book is pure fiction and has been hotly criticized. But, even when we dismiss The Da Vinci Code as a tall tale, we can't dismiss the importance of numbers and symbols in religious faith. Concepts of sacred geometry are expressed in the beliefs of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and other formal religions.

Geometry and Architecture
From the pyramids in Egypt to the new World Trade Center tower in New York, great architecture uses the same essential building blocks as your body and all living things. Moreover, the principles of geometry are not confined to great temples and monuments. Geometry shapes all buildings, no matter how humble. Believers say that when we recognize geometric principles and build upon them, we create dwellings that comfort and inspire.

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