12 Feb

All about the golden ratio in architecture

Classical architecture and design is deeply rooted in mathematics, and the most obvious example of this is the ‘golden ratio’ a formula, dating back to 300BC.

The science

Also known as the golden section or the golden mean, this geometric ratio consists of two quantities. The ratio between the sum of those two quantities and the larger one of them is the same as the ratio between the larger one and the smaller.

In architectural terms, this ratio generally takes the form of the golden rectangle – any shape that can be wholly divided into up into a square and a rectangle that, when combined, establishes a ratio, approximately equating to 1:1.61. Since both the lengths and widths of these shapes correspond to the ratio, the theory suggests that it is possible to up or downscale a structure while still maintaining these golden proportions.

Confused by the mathematics of it? Then just enjoy the results

In the world of design, scale and proportion is important, and the golden ratio is believed to create an aesthetically pleasing and balanced finish. In essence, the golden ratio in architecture can be thought of as a fine aesthetic detail, providing an impressive sense of artistry; a certain je ne sais quoi. This golden ratio of proportion has been recognized and followed by architects, artists, and designers for centuries, and can be witnessed all around the globe within many famous landmarks and masterpieces, from the Parthenon in Athens to the Pyramids in Giza; from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Incorporating the golden ratio into building projects

Just as interior design features will set the mood for the rooms within a house, the way that a building appears from the outside can also have a huge impact on its surroundings. It’s no surprise, then, that the golden ratio has such an important role in architecture and design. Its use can help a building span beyond the realms of form and function in order to deliver an exceptional quality of appearance, too.

This is especially true of traditional style build projects and heritage restorations where balancing proportions to reflect the period of the building is essential to the property’s appearance. However, it’s worth noting that these measurements are typically used approximately or as rules of thumb rather than hard and fast numbers. Often, practical limitations such as materials, work sites, and human error make it exceedingly complex to meet the ratio exactly.

The symmetrical front elevation of a truly quintessential Georgian property, for example, could encompass the golden ratio into its proportions, with its height, width, door and window positions and sizes, all relative to the size of its roof pitch. Truly sympathetic Georgian style sash windows should also mirror the size and spacing rules as defined by the golden ratio i.e. if a window is one unit wide, it should be 1.618 units tall – spanning ‘six over six’ panes combined with slim, refined glazing bars and deep reveals.

Beautifully example of refined sliding sash windows

The golden ratio can be applied to a building design through its facade and the placement, shape, and casings of the doors and windows. While the importance of these proportions is, of course, secondary to structural integrity, a nod in the general direction of this principle can have a dramatic effect on the kerb appeal of the property.