Nature offers no straight lines

We can attempt to merge the curved lines gifted by nature and straight lines discovered by human beings in our building plans

Try them out: Curved walls receive less heat from the sun’s rays and hence offer a great advantage for home designers

The first time one hears that nature has no straight lines, the very statement appears unbelievable. However, the fact is, it is impossible to get even one case of straight line in a natural setting, including the sun rays, which actually are curved across a path in the universe. Contrastingly, most of what we humans do today is in straight lines!

Traditional wisdom

The earliest shelters discovered by humans were curvilinear, normally round in plan, as seen in igloos, Buddhist stupas or African huts. Earliest mud pots, with no exception, were always round in form.

Even our traditional village homes are never in perfect wall planes, mostly being hand plastered.

With the advantageous principles of round shapes discovered, they found application not only in large water tanks and grain storages, but also in tea cups and kitchen utensils.

Have we noticed how the shape of radios, stereos and cars have changed over the decades, from rectilinear boxes to curvilinear forms?

Curved walls stronger

In architecture, straight walls are susceptible to side bulging and buckling, hence require stiffening as per case. Whereas, curved walls cannot easily bulge in one direction, hence are stronger.

If we need to enclose a specific floor area inside either a circle or a rectangle, it’s the circle which does it with least circumference of wall length, hence works out more judicious on the budget front.

A typical linear wall, lit by direct sunlight, receives the full impact of sun rays on the complete area of the wall, gaining heat in the process. Comparatively curved walls receive direct sunlight only for a part of the wall, rest of the wall receiving rays from an oblique angle.

Cooling benefit

Since heat gain is directly proportional to the direct solar radiation, curved walls receive lesser solar heat. Incidentally, even the roof too can be curved to get the passive cooling benefits.

The theory sounds nice, but can we really curve all the walls, given the lifestyle and home products of today? Of course not.

Architects across continents, from Buckminster Fuller to Laurie Baker, have tried building with non-linear ideas. As a follow-up, we can attempt to merge the curved lines gifted by nature and straight lines discovered by human beings.

Designing with curves

Besides the eco-advantages, there also are visual benefits of curved walls. From no two points the curved wall will appear same, while the straight wall is all visible as a flat surface; as such the curved wall creates greater visual appeal. Routinely, in every room we see two adjacent straight walls with a sharp corner.

Now, let us imagine the sharp corner made into a curved profile. The two walls appear like one long wall making the room appear longer and larger, though the measured dimensions are same.

Alternately, instead of a full-fledged curve, only the sharp corner could be gently curved by your home designer to get a soft corner. Imagine a soft-cornered building, just like a soft cornered person!


Posted on April 30, 2011, in designs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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