It is defined as “The balanced distribution and arrangement of equipment of equivalent forms and spaces on opposite sides of a dividing line or plane, or about a center or axis.”
While an axial condition can exist without a symmetrical condition being simultaneously present, a symmetrical condition cannot exist without implying the existence of an axis or center about which it is structured. An axis is established by two points; a symmetrical condition requires the balanced arrangement of equivalent patterns of form and space on opposite sides of a dividing line or plane, or about a center or axis.
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To understand symmetry it is simply one shape is flipped exactly like another. In architecture symmetry refers to the geometry of a building, as the building is same on either side of an axis. Symmetry are of two types Bilateral and Radial and is commonly used in architecture by creating two sides as mirror images of each other, and can be vertical (up and down axis) or horizontal (across axis).
As for example: Taj Mahal at Agra is planned by following the axis with Bilateral symmetry in plan and overall campus as mirror image as shown in figure.
Courtesy - 123rf
Symmetry in architecture is implied by its axiality, or centrality in the form of the building. The monumental architecture often uses symmetry i.e. mirrored, which show stability, balance and control. However, elements also evoke harmony and order in a space.
Two fundamental types of symmetry in architecture are as follows:
01. Bilateral Symmetry
It generally refers to “the balanced arrangement of similar or equivalent elements on opposite sides of a median axis so that only one plane can divide the whole into essential identical halves.”
Best example of bilateral symmetry is the Taj Mahal in Agra which is totally mirrored image when cut in to sections.
Bilateral symmetry creates an axial spatial organization. It is the most common type of symmetry used in architecture and it is found in all cultures and time periods they are basically halves of a composition of form is mirror each other. It can be based on structural organization and also in details and surface of facades.
02. Radial Symmetry
It generally refers to “the balanced arrangement of similar, radiating elements on opposite sides of a median axis so that only one plane can be divided into similar halves by passing a plane at any angle around a center point or along a central axis.”
Radial symmetry implies a center and a repetitive or continuous surrounding context. Many functional structures use the radial symmetry, such as stadiums, fortifications, etc. The radial structures simply place emphasis on the central area of a structure or place. For example if you see under the center of the dome, the ribs will appear perfectly straight as they are radial from the center. To understand the radial symmetry other than architecture, just think about a perfectly sliced pizza which can be cut from any vertical section appears same.
However, one of the most common examples can be found in the stained glass rose windows of churches and cathedrals.
Another well known example is The Bahai House of Worship (Lotus temple) in Delhi, planned in radial symmetry to create a large central void which is used as worship.
Courtesy - 123rf
Courtesy - 123rf
Ways to Utilized Architectural Composition in Symmetry:
An architectural composition can utilize symmetry to organize its forms and spaces in two ways:
01. An entire building organization can be made symmetrical. At some point, however, any totally symmetrical arrangements must confront and resolve the asymmetry of its site or context. Here is the perfect example of the Taj Mahal site plan which shows the bilateral symmetry in plan, and also within its overall site area as shown in figure:
02. A symmetrical condition can occur in only a portion of the building and organize an irregular pattern of forms and spaces about itself. Here is the example of the famous Architect Frank Lloyd Wright design – Residential house in Chicago which shows the symmetry in some portion of building as shown in figure:
Courtesy - Form Space Order by Franicis D.K.Ching
The latter case of symmetry allows a building to respond to exceptional conditions of its site or program. The symmetrical condition itself can be reserved for significant or important spaces within the organization.