Asymmetry is literally a lack of symmetry. It is usually defined in negative terms such as “objects that are not identical on both sides of a central line,” or those having a “failure of parts to correspond to one another in shape, size, or arrangement.“ It has been described as distorted, disquieting, out of place, hyperactive, tiresome, and threatening.
This blog post is a consideration of asymmetry in positive terms.
1. Asymmetrical objects cause our eyes to actively scan, and our minds to actively evaluate the unequal parts of the form, seeking balance. I feel this active engagement as stimulation, engagement, and fascination. Sometimes, a dynamic balance is achieved in an object; sometimes it is not.
3. There are degrees of symmetry. The human face is generally symmetrical, with 2 eyes, 2 nostrils, 2 cheeks, and 2 eyebrows. Yet on closer inspection of almost every face, inequality of the parts is obvious. Asymmetry is the source of interest, beauty, ugliness, and expression.
Marilyn Monroe’s iconic and memorable face (top center) is admired. By mirroring just the left side (lower left), and comparing that to a mirroring of only the right side (lower right), we can see that it is far from symmetrical in structure and detail. Her facial imbalance gives her vulnerability and compelling beauty. She even darkened her beauty mark to enhance the irregular composition.
4. For human-made things, composition is a result of choices. What is the meaning or message in the choice to “go crooked?” In the early 1900s, Kazimir Malevich, a Russian Suprematist artist, created elemental, abstract art, which was shocking and radical in its time.
4. raises questions about the meaning or message in the choice to “go crooked”
Thomas Crane Public Library by H.H. Richardson, 1882.
Auditorio de Tenerife by Santiago Calatrava, 2003
Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1939
Coetzee House by Emilio Eftychis, 2005(?)
Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum by Oscar Niemeyer, 1996.
Miyakonojo Civic Center in Miyakonojo, by Kiyonori Kikutake, 1966, Metabolist Architecture
Chartres Cathedral image courtesy of Wikipedia.
First photo of a flounder courtesy of TBD; second image of a fiddler crab courtesy of Google Images; third image of Marilyn Monroe courtesy of upscale; images of Malevich paintings courtesy of Web Museum.
First architectural example courtesy of Wikipedia, second courtesy of Wikipedia; third courtesy of fallingwater.org; fourth courtesy of designboom; fifth courtesy of Wikepedia; sixth courtesy of Panaramio.
Feel free to share any of these images, but please provide a link back to 2H Pencil.
I invite your comments.