Why our brains love curvy architecture

An article about different responses people have to curved versus rectilinear designed forms. The former is more likely to prompt activity in brain regions associated with emotion.  ”Curvature appears to affect our feelings, which in turn could drive our preference,” it says.

Why, though?  There’s an adaptive rationale, that straight lines = sharp objects = danger, and that might be partly true, but as the piece points out, some straight lines are welcoming (Ikea) and some curves not so (rattlesnakes).  

But how about the fact that nature is ‘relentlessly nonlinear’ (Ian Stewart)? The only straight lines are ones we ourselves create.  We live lives much of the time a long way from nature, from our source.  Curvilinear design brings us a little closer to it, and we like it.  

The counter-example in the article is interesting, though: “The Bilbao in all its sinuous glory may bring tears to the eye, but it probably took a very rectangular truck to bring [the] construction material”.  We use straight lines to simplify, to bring order to a chaos that might otherwise overwhelm us.  And often straight lines are just a lot more practical.  In terms of landscape design, I suspect that the best seamlessly incorporates both. And maybe that’s the landscape architect’s raison d’être?

 

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