We hear the terms "well proportioned" and "ill proportioned" all the time, but we seldom really think about what they mean. What exactly gives an object good proportions, or bad ones? For instance, why do many people find a brick wall attractive but a concrete block wall ugly? Color, texture and historical associations all play a role, but the main reason is more subtle: While the exposed face of a brick has proportions of about three to one, that of your typical 8x8x16 concrete block has proportions of two to one. It's a coarse, clumsy ratio that's simply less pleasing to the eye. Why should an object's relative shape have such profound qualities? People have pondered this question for millennia. In ancient Greece, Plato, Pythagoras and Euclid all delved into the mystery of geometric proportions. Among other things, the Greeks were fascinated by the Golden Rectangle -- a shape so proportioned that when a perfect square is removed from it, the result is another Golden Rectangle (this p...
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