Fun Fact Friday: the Golden Ratio

Fun Fact Friday: the Golden Ratio

pyramids-golden-ratio-header

Since we try to be diverse here – not only in our tastes but also in our knowledge and understanding of the way things work – we thought we’d make this week’s Fun Fact Friday all about the golden ratio. Now, if you’re like me, you have a vague idea of what it is, but don’t really know how extensively it’s pervaded the things we look at every day. So here’s a primer in images. Presenting: the Golden Ratio!

The Golden Ratio

The golden ratio is explained pretty simply by this image from Wikipedia. A line can be divided into two segments, with a being twice the length of b.

OK, that’s pretty simple. But how does that ratio work out when applied to shapes? Let’s take a rectangle, for instance, and expand from there.

The concept of the golden ratio can be applied to other shapes – it’s not restricted to the straight line. Artists (lots of famous ones, in fact) have used it to order the structure of
their paintings. The Great Pyramid of Giza (as seen in the header image for this post)
was built around a triangle derived from the golden ratio – even though the mathematical
concept hadn’t been discovered yet.

The Notre-Dame of Laon is designed according to the golden ratio, as some have claimed. Others disagree. But it is at least a good approximation of that ratio, as are the Notre Dame de Paris and the Cathedral of Chartres.

Architects sought the golden ratio for the proportions of their buildings. See: the
Greek Parthenon, which approximates the rectangular golden ratio. Also, the
Notre-Dame of Laon (shown) is designed according to the golden ratio, as some
have claimed. Others disagree. But it is at least a good approximation of that ratio,
as are the Notre Dame de Paris and the Cathedral of Chartres. These cathedrals
used the rectangular golden ratio as well as its triangular divisions to find their proportions.

Now here’s where it gets fun – and beautiful. The Fibonacci spiral, which is another whole
post in itself, is here shown to approximate the golden spiral. How does that look in
nature? Just look at the next few images and you’ll see how the entire structure of some
flowers and plants is built around this pattern. Amazing!

Image found at http://thesavoia.com - photographer unknown

Image found at http://thesavoia.com – photographer unknown

Image found at http://thesavoia.com - photographer unknown

Image found at http://thesavoia.com – photographer unknown

Image found at http://thesavoia.com - photographer unknown

Image found at http://thesavoia.com – photographer unknown

Image found at http://thesavoia.com – photographer unknown

Image found at http://www.contemporist.com - photographer unknown

A Korean company called KAMKAM has made a system of shelving that is explicitly built around the golden ratio. It’s modular, modern, and we think it looks really cool. Image
found at http://www.contemporist.com – photographer unknown

Now that you’ve seen the golden ratio at work, let’s turn back to modern furniture design (since, of course, we’re all about it). With the golden rectangle in mind, look at the form of the Eames Wire Chair. If it doesn’t fit perfectly into that famous rectangle it sure gets close, right? Thanks for checking out this week’s Fun Fact Friday with me! I’ll leave you with a couple images of the icon itself.

Eames Wire Chair

It’s even close to the golden ratio from the
side – and its shadow is too.

Eames Wire Chair by Herman Miller

Eames Wire Chair by Herman Miller – or should we say Golden Ratio Chair?

 

Mark Rico

I work under the official-sounding, completely made-up title of Web Marketing Content Specialist. That's simply because "Dude Who Writes Stuff" would make a lame title. Oh, and my co-workers don't let me make the Chewbacca noise in the office. For some reason it bothers them. But that's the first sound that comes to my mind when something deserves a reaction. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about me based on that.

  • Gary Meisner

    Hi Mark. Great article. I’ve been writing about the golden ratio for years at http://www.goldennumber.net and you had some examples I hadn’t yet seen. [...] Regards, Gary Meisner

  • Mark Rico

    Glad you enjoyed it, Gary – it’s really intriguing how many places that number shows up where you don’t expect it to.