Reflections of our universe in design and craft.

Guest post by Laurie Smith on geometry, continuing the discussion that was begun here

We are all intimately connected to the universe. At each new sunrise we witness the eternal geometry of the sun as it rises clear of the Earth’s horizon and its light, in flight through space, enters our eyes and burns its image on our retinas. The sun, the Earth, and our eyes are all spherical and our irises are circular. Circularity is fundamental to movement.

Inside the dark Earth we can find minerals, cooled from molten lava into crystals with triangular, square and hexagonal sections, the three angular shapes that pack together without intervening space. Angularity inhibits movement and provides stability.

Circularity and angularity are opposite yet interrelated geometrical forces that govern our world and, like male and female, their fusion brings harmony and strength. The carpenter knows that inside the circularity of a tree there is an angular timber, stable and strong, a part of the natural world that is perfect for building.

When the structure of our world is governed geometrically, what could be more natural than to design using geometry, a spatial language that gives us good proportions and buildings that are in harmony with our surroundings. The geometrical module above left, which was carved into a timber of a Welsh hall-house in 1460, can be opened like a flower to design the building’s section, lower left, which shows the hall’s nave, aisles and massive spere posts.

Draw two lines that cross at right angles and where they cross draw a circle. The circle is a plan of the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. Draw six more circles around the circumference of the first and you will discover that they fit exactly. And then, if you draw straight lines between the points where circles overlap, you can construct a triangle, square and hexagon, the three angular plans of mineral crystals. The hexagon is also the plan of a bee’s honeycomb cell, and if you draw straight lines between the hexagon’s angles, the plan of a snowflake. Each circle is the plan of a bird’s nest and the circles overlap to form the petals of a flower. The natural world is designed to geometrical proportions.

When we design our own homes we can choose to follow nature’s path. The simple geometry described above and related compass geometries have been used to design buildings for at least a thousand years, right up to the present day. Geometrical design brings good proportions and simplicity of form, qualities that are in harmony with the natural world and pleasant to live within.