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Why is mathematics used in architecture?

Date: Monday, 13 January 2003 11:27:42 +0100
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I have noticed, possibly largely from those more mathematically inclined, the tendency to limit one's inquiry to the question of "how". What Professor Peter Schneider of University of Colorado meant by distinguishing "reasoning" from "problem-solving" during the Nexus 2002 round-table, the point Dr. Alberto Perez-Gomez has made in years in his work in theory, and what Dr. Robert Tavernor pointed out by "quality" as distinguished from "quantity" all point to yet another kind of inquiry, that is, the question of "why". "Why is mathematics used in architecture?" or "Why is this particular mathematics appear in this piece of architecture?", as opposed to "How mathematics is used in architecture?", provides another important aspect of the subject. Expanding on the questions regarding of "why" will, I think, allow us to go beyond the surface of form and structure making, and toward the understanding of the ideas and the ideals that have supported architecture.


#11 Nat Friedman 2010-08-06 01:01
Geometry is the language of architecture. It may be classical Greek or Frank Gehry. A building is three-dimensional geometry. You can't describe a building without geometry. When I first started to look at architecture in downtown Chicago, I saw that it was mainly about rectangles-windows , doors, building outlines, etc-a synphony of rectangles-just rectangles. Seemed somewhat simplistic. Especially the steel and glass apartment buildings-very minimal geometry. I liked the minimality. So as I understand the question-it doesn't make sense to ask it. It is really about the how. How do you use mathematics? The "new" geometry is more curvey-not rectangular.

This reminds me of a question that came up at one of my conferences here. I was talking about form and space and someone asked me what is space? I said space is space. Then I said that if you asked me "why is space?", that is a good question. For me, sculpture is form, space, and light. Space is where the light goes! That was my answer to this why question.
#12 Vera W. de Spinadel 2010-08-06 01:04
A great part of this question can be easily answered! In fact, if you ask why is geometry used in architecture, it is quite obvious that since geometry is the instrument to design, and to design is to build an organized spacial structure, the knowledge of spacial forms is a necessary condition to deliver an architectonic message of the best quality. Moreover, with the introduction of computer design softwares, the possibilities of combinations of geometrical systems are enormously increased. And geometry is for the architect a disciplinal means, an essential implement in the "consideration" of the forms that intervene in the "composition" of space.

But if you consider the rest of mathematics, why is it used in architecture? Let us try to give two examples of possible answers: 1) because there is a "Generative Theory of Shape" (see the book with that title by Michael Leyton, developed using the most abstract concept of symmetry groups, which is used as an intelligent means of describing the entire complex structure of a building; 2) because if you consider the fascination that numbers have in architectonic design, we may conclude that we have an innate proportion science that obliges us to measure dimensions comparing one with another.The fascination starts with the integer numbers as indicated by the egiptian "sacred triangle", a right-angled triangle with the two cathetus and the hypotenuse in the proportion 3, 4 and 5. But quickly goes from magic triangles and perfect squares to the square root of 2 rectangle and to the golden rectangle, where the numbers considered are irrationals and demand rational approximations to be applied in the real construction (see From the Golden Mean to Chaos by Vera W. de Spinadel). Among these two examples there is a myriad of applications of mathematical subjects, going from number theory to fractals and frontiers of chaos, to architecture.
#13 Ishmita Singh 2011-10-17 20:20
Mathematics >> Art >> Architecture . its all connected , just like the theory of relativity. If you see from a mathematicians mind , maths or should i say "logic" is there in every thing. Anything illogical is not at all pleasant to our eyes. I think that answers the question of why.(unless you are doing something illogical) And .ARCHITECTURE is nothing illogical , just imagination .
#14 Ishmita Singh 2011-10-21 20:11
Mathematics > art > architecture >> .Its all connected just like the theory of relativity .though , i , should term maths as architecture or rather logic as buildings and art . Its just the way we please our eyes with something of perfect shape and everything.
Its the way structures are
not wobbly neither bad
its geometry , shapes ,
sizes , lines , curves ,
That takes over our mind.

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