In my graduate studies in Psychology, one unit we studied was “interpersonal attractiveness”. The professors at my university had done numerous studies of what makes a person attractive. They asked thousands of study subjects to rate photographs of various people, male and female, young and old. There are many dimensions to attractiveness, and different people see different features as attractive. But the one feature that they discovered, that was a constant, was Symmetry, especially facial symmetry. Someone with a more-symmetrical face, no features out of balance, was seen as more attractive by most subjects. So it appears that humans are hard-wired to seek out symmetry in their mates, and dates. And this might explain the symmetry that the Classical architects sought in their buildings.
Of course, Mother Nature provides symmetry for us to admire too. On our recent vacation, we drove through Glacier National Park. The trees reflected in the calm waters of Lake McDonald supply pleasing vertical symmetry. Even the rocks in the left foreground have little reflections that make them look almost like fishes.
Also on our recent vacation, we drove through Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. This is a little-known wonder, and I highly recommend it. The Park is near the Little Missouri River, and during the Great Depression, the government built viewing points on the beautiful bluffs overlooking the river below. This building supplies an excellent symmetry. The window and walls of the building symmetrically frame the bluffs opposite. Horizontal symmetry is also seen in the wall of the terrace outside the building, and the strips of land and sky.
Classically symmetrical buildings are still being built in our modern times. Hillsdale College’s new Christ Chapel is a perfect example of a modern, yet classical new building. This is what the outside looks like.
It’s hard to find a building as symmetrical, and as beautiful, as this one. And the fountain, and even the yellow-flowered bushes in the foreground, are symmetrical. So. let’s go inside to find more beautiful classical symmetry.
The ceiling, the windows, and the coffers on either side of the interior of the chapel reflect the architects’ classical symmetrical sensibility. The chapel lends itself to calm meditation, and the acoustics are wonderful for the services and concerts performed there. Hillsdale is in south-central Michigan, and you are welcome to visit if you are in the area.
I found a delightful example of radial symmetry when I went to Southern California in 2019. Who would have thought a shopping mall would provide such beauty? We were there in February, around the Chinese New Year, and 2019 was the Year of the Pig. See the wonderful canopy over the interior courtyard.
Finally, on that same trip, we stayed in the conference hotel, which had numerous examples of symmetry all over. I was impressed with these elevator doors. I am very fond of the Art Deco style from the 1920s and 1930s, and they look just perfect.
Symmetry is everywhere, both in the natural and the man-made world. Since it’s hard-wired, you are programmed to like things symmetrical in your environment, and nature provides examples, too.