Beauty in Architecture

Harmony of Place

by Bogusław Szuba (Volume editor) Tomasz Drewniak (Volume editor)
©2022 Monographs 484 Pages


The subject of the monograph is a multi-layered interpretation of beauty in architecture, the analysis of key ideas, attitudes, and concepts related to the art of shaping space focused on perfection and harmony. An integral approach to significant problems related to shaping the spatial order, taking into account a wide range of social, cultural, aesthetic, and environmental factors related to the beauty and harmony of a place, is a distinctive feature of the monograph. The statements of many theoreticians and practitioners of architecture from Poland and abroad, emphasize the beauty in architecture as an important feature of human surroundings. Architecture, apart from the features of utility and the required technical correctness, should lead to delight, deep reflection, and emotion.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction. Harmony of beauty and harmony of place
  • Conceptualisation (Bogusław Szuba)
  • Analysis (Tomasz Drewniak)
  • Part I Harmony of the city – from art to reality
  • The fictional cities of Italo Calvino in contemporary visual arts (Tatiana Goranskaya)
  • Influence of the categories beautiful and nature on the formation of the space of a traditional Chinese city and house (Ping Zhou & Nina Kazhar)
  • Losses in the architectural and planning structure of the Renaissance towns in Galicia in the period from 1939 to the 1990s (Svitlana Topylko & Ulyana Ivanochko)
  • Part II Places of/in public space
  • Transformations of city centres according to Jan Gehl’s theory. Meetings with the master in Lublin (Jan Wrana)
  • Typology and transformation of public spaces – urban interiors on the example of Podgorica, Montenegro (Gordana Rovčanin Premović)
  • Part III Place as an interior
  • The In-Side beauty of architecture (Peter Schmid-Prakas & Gabriella Pál-Schmid)
  • Who does make the domestic space? (Marco Lucchini)
  • The aesthetic integrity of the architecture of the contemporary interior in the old and new building (Mieczysław K. Leniartek)
  • Part IV Dominants of the place
  • The problems of beauty and the particular elements in landscape − case studies in the surroundings of the town of Bieruń (Grażyna Lasek)
  • The Northern River Terminal in Moscow. A historical monument and harmony of the place (Irina Cheredina & Ekaterina Rybakova)
  • Reconstruction of building structures of historical and architectural heritage in the Tbilisi city (Irakli Kvaraia, Inga Iremashvili, Liana Giorgobiani & Adam Ujma)
  • Harmony of space in the German concept of modern tourism reflected in the first Guidebooks (Alina Dittmann)
  • Part V Tectonics of the place
  • Dynamic harmony of modularised space (Hanna Michalak & Jerzy Suchanek)
  • Harmony of sound and architecture as one of the important criteria for shaping human space (Anna Telatycka)
  • Part VI Friendly living space
  • Contemporary housing estate − urban layout in the area of the former depot of Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacji in Lublin (Katarzyna Szmygin & Olga Górnik)
  • Selected aspects of the harmony of the housing environment (Agata Pięt)
  • Part VII Decoration of the place
  • Camillo Boito − an architect on the way of discovering beauty in decorative art (Elżbieta Barbara Lenart)
  • Architectural glass art compositions as significant components defining the character of public interiors and urban spaces (Konrad Urbanowicz)
  • Part VIII Towards the trans-objective (transcendental) aesthetics of place
  • Postmodern memory. A study on aesthetics of Eastern Europe (Miloš Milovanović)
  • Will to power in architecture. Nietzschean inspirations (Henryk Benisz)
  • Harmony and mysticism of the Albertine Hermitages in Kalatówki in Zakopane (Bogusław Szuba)
  • Emptiness as the openness of the place. Contribution to the reflection on the phenomenon of kenosis in architectural space (Tomasz Drewniak)
  • Series Index

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Bogusław Szuba
University of Applied Sciences in Nysa


The idea of beauty, return to origins

Near the Minor Basilica, the St. Jakob’s Treasury, between the town square and the entrance to the Wrocławska Street, there is one of the most beautiful masterpieces of baroque blacksmith art that is most commonly associated with Nysa – the Beautiful Well.1 According to the author of this statement, the Beautiful Well (presented on the cover of the book, intricately related to the water falling on it) has a symbolic meaning – a return to drawing from the sources of beauty and harmony of the space shaped by man.

In the history of human thought, many theories of beauty and the harmony related to it, perceived in many areas of life, have been developed.

The Pythagoreans were the authors of the so-called Great Theory, according to which beauty lies in the proportion of parts. According to their views, beauty means a perfect structure, this idea in turn is based on proportions, which could be determined by numerical ratios.

Harmony (alignment and proportionality) closely followed this theory. Critics of the Great Theory have attempted to create other theories of beauty. In fact, these things have become its complement, not its contradiction. Here are a few of them (Tatarkiewicz, 1998):

Beauty means unity in multiplicity. John Scotus Eriugena argued that the beauty of the world lies in harmony.

Beauty means perfection. Thomas Aquinas used this concept specifically in connection with art: ‘An image is called beautiful when it perfectly depicts a thing.’

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Beauty means appropriateness, in adapting things to their nature and purpose. Everything that is aptum, decorum, what is appropriate and handsome is beautiful (in ancient times, this concept was represented in the Stoic philosophy, in the rhetoric of Cicero and Quintilian).

Beauty is the revelation of ideas in things, the revelation of the ‘archetype,’ the eternal pattern, the highest perfection, the absolute (Neoplatonists, Plotinus, Pseudo-Dionysius, Albert the Great).

Beauty is an expression of the psyche, the ‘inner form’ (Plotinus). According to this theory, the spirit alone is what appeals to us – it is the only thing that is truly beautiful, whereas material things are beautiful as long as they are saturated with it.

Beauty means moderation (Albrecht Dürer). Excess and scarcity spoil a thing. Beauty ‘lies in the middle, between the two extremes’ (Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy).

Beauty is figurative, it is based on a metaphor, on parlar figurato, there are as many varieties of fine arts as there are figurative varieties (Emanuel Tesauro).

It is impossible to list or describe all theories of beauty here. They are known and well-described by many theorists around the world. Among the features of beauty, harmony seems to occupy a special place. The French architect Blondel describes beauty as ‘concert harmonique.’ He believes that harmony is the ‘source, beginning, and cause’ of the satisfaction that art provides (Tatarkiewicz, p. 147).

Man in harmony with nature

Man is a part of the natural world, and at the same time he is influenced by the value systems cultivated in his family, in religious groups, or in the nation. The concept of beauty may vary among nations, social strata, and even individuals. To a large extent, it is a subjective feeling, extremely difficult to verify, sometimes very fleeting, depending on the individual experiences of the perceived environment.

However, there are premises indicating the existence of objective beauty, contained in the world of nature or in the world of man shaped by the Creator, guided by the creation of good and fully valuable things.

Man, which has harmonious, perfect proportions, may himself be a symbol of beauty. Beauty means also good that lies in the depths of human personality. It manifests itself in the noble deeds of man, his attitude, and conduct towards fellow man. Beauty also manifests itself in the human community, the functioning of which is based on partnership, mutual understanding, cooperation, dedication, or sacrifice.

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Phenomena occurring in nature can be the key to perceiving and learning about beauty, positively inspiring people in shaping the environment. It can be presumed that this influence will result in the formation of links and relations between elements of the environment, causing the perception and experience of beauty among the users of the shaped space.

A drop of water dripping down a steep rock, looking for the most convenient slopes, hollows it over the centuries, avoiding rock ledges and falling along a vertical wall, breaking itself and the rock, carving deeper and deeper. The streams that join on all sides create a mass that moves quickly and transports the crushed rock material down their path further and further, finally depositing it in the lower course of the river in the form of sandbanks and islands. Water movements constitute a creative element by taking away material and adding it later. The result of this creative movement of the material is a unique landscape filled with an atmosphere that is the only one of its kind.

How similar the process of creating the oldest cities seems to be. The first drop is man who carves his path in the forest, slowly and stubbornly. Over time, other people start to use this path, widening it. This is the beginning of the path chosen due to convenience and the most advantageous fall in comparison to all other passages available. The first human shelters are built next to it, most often made of material created as a result of carving along the path. The green wall of the forest slowly turns into a wall of picturesque and freely formed buildings, a wall of a human stream canyon. Side lanes flow into the river like streams, feeding the main stream. Where two such rivers meet, a larger town is created. The streets of the old town reflect the mood of the river canyon well, the impression of the walls controlling human movements is very similar. The same creative displacement of material takes place there, but in the case of the town creation process, its final product, which is formed via addition, is the same as the end product in the case of a canyon, which is formed via subtraction (Kuraś, 1969).

This poetic vision of shaping the environment by man, presented more than half a century ago, contains an image of perceptible beauty. Since the dawn of time, people guided by their own safety have tried to intuitively integrate their place of residence into their surroundings. Two elements – nature and man in direct contact with it – constituted a balanced and mutually complementary system. The intuitively understood need for a harmonious coexistence with nature meant that man treated the surrounding world as an inexhaustible source of wisdom. Over the centuries, he has been learning to use it in a rational way, compliant with the laws of nature.

The intuition of people untouched by the mundane, such as modern civilisation, has led to the creation of magnificent architectural buildings, which, while ←13 | 14→maintaining harmony with the existing surroundings, have survived intact to this day. Over time, people stopped using the sense of harmony and began to adhere to specific fashions. The resulting oddities were inconsistent with the purpose of the building – the spatial harmony.

The rapid development of civilisation led to the creation of large urban agglomerations, the design of which ceased to take into account the interests of an individual and created forms of survival-type construction. Seemingly harmonious architectural compositions were created, the main goal of which was to create comfort that would facilitate human life in the material sense, rather than in terms of mental and health comfort. However, these trends were enthusiastically received in their time as a solution to the settlement problem.

Harmony as an expression of beauty

The concept of harmony appears in many spheres of meaning. According to the Słownik języka polskiego PWN, it means:

personification of order and agreement (in Greek mythology, the goddess of true love. Also in the era of Hellenism: order, agreement, and unity),

conformity, complementarity or appropriate proportions,


the way of combining and building chords in a piece of music,

part of the music theory concerning the principles of chord structure and what follows.

There are indications that harmony is one of the most important features of beauty that man intuitively seeks, moreover, harmony is a condition for the emergence and maintenance of life on earth.

Ancient man had much more modest technical possibilities, his creative activity was dominated by beliefs and religious rites. He erected a number of buildings considered to this day as a model of harmony and beauty of the shaped space. The harmonious formation of space concerned both sacred structures and those related to social life. The architects of that time based their designs on sensitive intuition, creative imagination, as well as sensual and extrasensory experiences. They were guided by the supremacy of the pursuit of harmony – understood as compliance with the laws and energies of nature, beauty – associated with the form of the object, and utility of the shaped building. The relationship of ancient man with nature was so strong that these people developed in their beliefs the so-called astrobiological religion.2

(…) the existence of the World that is ordered is possible primarily due to the fact that individual beings-structures survive through love (border, Harmony) and because of love (under its influence) (Biedrzyński, 2014).

For as long as there have been human beings – man has been trying to learn about himself. Learning the laws governing the universe is conditioned by understanding human beings. All buildings, pyramids, and temples were built on the basis of both astronomical data and the proportions of the human body. Were these undertakings merely an expression of the exuberant ambitions of rulers?

In Luxor, the ceiling of the temple is decorated with golden stars, the so-called decanal constellations, which maintain over 36 parts of the sky, zodiacal deities, and star deities in boats travelling across the sky (Porębski, 1976).

A French orientalist of Polish origin named R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, after spending a long time researching the temple in Luxor, published an unorthodox vision of ancient Egypt in a series of books. According to de Lubicz, all architectural undertakings were intended to be a kind of spiritual exercise, and at the ←15 | 16→same time an initiation for those who were properly prepared to receive knowledge about the secrets of existence.3

Nowadays, anthroposophy – the way of self-improvement, understanding the world, nature, and man – that originated in Europe is becoming increasingly more popular. One great value of this path of learning is its practicality in life, a holistic view of man and his place in nature. R. Steiner, in his famous expression, states: ‘Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe.’

‘Man, know thyself’ – such an inscription could appear at the entrance of the spiritual centre – Goetheanum, erected on a hill, in a vast park and orchard, in Dornach, near Basel, in Switzerland. The history of the Goetheanum dates back to 1920. First, a wooden building was erected, designed in such a way that its architecture, applied symbolism, appropriate material, and the colour used would embody the spiritual secrets of man and the universe. Its structure is based on the same wood combinations as in the case of a violin. However, this facility was set on fire, which resulted in its complete destruction. A huge, reinforced concrete building was erected in its place with its own characteristic architecture, expressing both the materiality of the world and the realness of its spirit. Currently, the facility is vibrant with the activities of many scientific sections, conducting extensive research and teaching in the following fields of science: medicine, biodynamic agriculture, astronomy, pedagogy. A number of original artistic ventures in the field of painting, sculpture, eurhythmia, etc. are undertaken here.

Fields affected by the harmony of place

Harmony is a phenomenon of friendly relations between the elements that create it. In its most obvious sense, it is the relationship between architecture and its user. The contemporary image of architecture is an environment in which man finds his place. The traditional division into the building and its surroundings becomes blurred. Together, they create the conditions for meeting human needs.

It seems that the semantic layers of the impact of the harmony of place are inexhaustible. Beauty as a source of creative inspiration in shaping man’s environment is still undergoing attempts at its discovery and searched for. Beauty in architecture can be perceived in a single architectural or urban facility/complex, as well as in its relations with the immediate surroundings as well as further surroundings.

One of the ways of finding the fields of harmony of place is to perform an analysis of the construction process. This begins with an idea initiating the creation of a work piece and ends at the stage of technical death of an architectural facility/complex, return to the previous state, or transformation, revitalisation, and re-initiation of the cycle.

Harmony of the idea of a creative place

The beauty of the creative idea of an architectural work piece being shaped consists of several layers of meaning, including:

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the accuracy of defining its usability programme in the space being shaped, allowing for the conviction that it will be fully accepted by its user,

the ability to specify the concept of the space being shaped, to bring out the individual character in relation to the surroundings, to distinguish and emphasise its values,


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (March)
architectural beauty architectural aesthetics architecture philosophy harmonizing place place perception architectural composition
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 484 pp., 188 fig. col., 110 fig. b/w, 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Bogusław Szuba (Volume editor) Tomasz Drewniak (Volume editor)

Bogusław Szuba - professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Nysa, Poland. His main areas of research include studies on aesthetics, philosophy and art in architecture Tomasz Drewniak - professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Nysa, Poland. His main areas of study concern philosophy, and sociology of art.


Title: Beauty in Architecture
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