Contrasting shapes in design can say so much about time, culture, mood.
Lucia has juxtaposed two very different shapes in a photo she took recently in Portland’s Chinese Garden. The walled garden is contained in a single city block in downtown Portland, an oasis of calm as they say. But outside its walls is an active modern city. The two are in stark contrast.
The upward swooping roof line has been used in Chinese architecture for centuries and here looks timeless. It is built of old wood and handmade tile. It hugs and even appears to protect the ground. The city building behind looks to the future. Constructed of burnished metal, pink (yet), it is aggressively vertical. The garden view is calming and reflective, while the city is energetic and actually reflective as it reflects the buildings around it.
Combining shapes like these is a common design choice. They actively fight against one another in mood and attitude. They fit rather uncomfortably into the skyline. But design choices are sometimes meant to unsettle, pose questions and create discord. This choice certainly does. In design this juxtaposing of unlike objects is called contrast.
When thinking about the design of your presentation, remember that unusual shape choices can raise tension and unbalance your audience. Sometimes that is exactly what you need to do. Hurray Lucia for finding this.
Susan got it right. She expressed what I saw in these two architectural designs. I had to stand in the right place and then bend and twist to get the right angle to display the curve in the foreground and rectangle in the background. (Just so you know, the rectangle building is what Portlanders call ‘Big Pink’.) It’s easy to forget the surrounding bustle of city life while in the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland. We have a tendency to focus on what’s contained in the square city block of the garden. It’s a quite place that lends itself to calm contemplation and peaceful ambling. I wanted to take a moment to look beyond the garden walls and create a thought provoking mix of shapes, cultures, and mood.
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