Ancient Greek Architecture: Mathematical Beauty

Greek Architecture: A Marriage of Math and Beauty

Classic Greek architecture is an elegant way to see how the Greeks merged the science and math of creating a stable, robust building with the more ethereal pursuit of creating a beautiful, spiritually moving building. The Greeks’ extremely detail-oriented approach to looking at every aspect of a building is an inspiration for many of the best architects today.

Proportions

Greeks liked to create building plans with mathematical accuracy. Frequently, a temple or important civic building would be constructed within a certain range of ratios. The ratios of the building height, to its width, to its depth would conform to a predetermined scale. A favourite of the Greeks was the Golden Mean, a ratio that is frequently seen in growth patterns in nature. What is fascinating about this ratio is that it is endlessly divisible, so it lends itself well to use throughout an entire building.

Perspective

Not only did the Greeks build their temples and official buildings with mathematical perfection in mind, they also frequently built them with visual perfection in mind.
Researchers say that the Parthenon, regarded by many as one of the most beautiful buildings in human history, doesn’t have a single straight line as part of its construction. The architects of this temple understood optical illusion and perspective enough to alter the shape of their building in ways that would make it appear more perfect than an ordinary building. For example, when two parallel lines are crossed by other lines than intersect, the parallel lines will appear to bow outward. The architects of the Parthenon gave the floor and the ceiling of the building the slightest curves inward, so that the other intersecting angles of the building wouldn’t make them look crooked.

Surrounding Aesthetics

The Greeks also very carefully analyzed the geographic location a building would stand in. They decided on the direction a building would face based on where they wanted sunlight to fall on it during different times of day and of the year. They paid attention to the surrounding structures and landmarks as well when deciding where to put a new building.