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Architecture finds strength in threes

Creating beauty through design

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People love things that come in threes, whether wise men or musketeers or stooges. But you'll also find groups of three showing up in more hifalutin' places: Hence, a symphony has three movements, a play has three acts, and a novel has its proverbial beginning, middle and end. The peculiar power of three-part compositions crops up in architecture as well. Take, for instance, the division of the classical column into base, shaft and capital -- a sort of beginning, middle and end in three dimensions. In one form or another, this same vertical composition appears in everything from classical temples to skyscrapers. It also appears in the individual parts of buildings, such as the way interior walls are divided into base, wall and crown, and even in the design of moldings, whose profiles are often built up with three elements of different hierarchies, more or less like miniature buildings. What makes three-part compositions so effective? One answer may lie in the way we think. Our brains s...