Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Austere Beauty of Mathematics

"Where there is numbers there is beauty"


Ernst Haeckel - Acanthophracta / Michael Hansmayer Studio - Tetrahedron / Platonic Solids - Tetrahedron

Ernst Haeckel - Polycittaria / Michael Hansmayer Studio - Dodecahedron / Platonic Solids - Dodecahedron

Ernst Haeckel - Phaeodaria / Michael Hansmayer Studio - Hexaedron / Platonic Solids - Hexaedron

Ernst Haeckel, famed for being an early and major advocate of Darwin's theory, was an important biologist and proto-geneticist who is nowadays mainly remembered for his book Kunstformen der Natur, extremely accurate hand drawings of several hundred of species, most of them observed through a microscope. The book was intended to reflect a worldview and his own interpretation of evolution, and went on to become a major influence (some say the defining influence alongside Beardsley-style japonism) onto Art Nouveau. Many of the species he discovered (Radiolaria) are notable for their perfect polyhedral structures.

Michael Hansmeyer's Zurich based studio specializes in computational architecture, which in this case seems to mean essentially fractal generative modelisations. The particular series presented here, Subdvivisons: Platonic Solids, answers the traditional assumption that architecture consist in a permutation of the primitive solids: the fundamental "building blocks" of reality, or at least of classical aesthetics, are submitted to a single algorithm that develops it fractally towards infinitely complex forms. 

According to Proclus, platonic solids were discovered by Pythagoras, although archaeology have proven him wrong - Pythagoreans believed in the absolute reality of numbers and therefore were likely to hold the solids as manifestation of the essence of reality, while Plato associated them in the Timaeus with the four elements constituting the material world. 

"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry"

Bertrand Rusell

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