Beauty is regularly in the eye of the beholder, but sometimes it is maths that defines it. From iconic colourful houses to thrilling street art, we’ve long argued that Bristol is one of the most stunning cities in the UK. But now a recent mathematical study has backed us up. It stated that Bristol has some of the most beautiful buildings in the country, based on a property known as the golden ratio.
How can maths decide the beauty of a building?
Anyone familiar with photography or architecture will have heard of the golden ratio, sometimes called the divine proportion. For those that haven’t, it is a set of proportions (1:1.618 to be exact) often perceived to be aesthetic perfection. Artists have incorporated the golden ratio into their work for centuries, from da Vinci to Dalí. It was even studied by the Ancient Greeks. And some argue you can find examples of it appearing in nature too, such as in the measurements of the human body, flowers and DNA.
The study, carried out by Online Mortgage Advisor, applied the golden ratio to regular buildings and iconic landmarks in cities across Britain to see which boasts the most beautiful buildings. They analysed more than 2,400 buildings using Google Street View to find the answer.
Plotting points at the corners of every building, they calculated the longest and shortest lengths of its dimensions. This was then compared to the golden ratio to see how well each building matched. A ‘beauty score’ was then calculated for each city – representing the average percentage match of a city’s buildings to the golden ratio.
Based on these scores, the city with the most beautiful buildings was… Chester with a score of 83.7%. Bristol came in sixth place with an average score of 80%. Those ahead of us included London (83%), Belfast (82.9%), Liverpool (81%) and Durham (80.5%). This means Bristol has more beautiful buildings than the likes of Oxford, Edinburgh, York and even Bath.
Of course, not everyone believes that the golden ratio is divine design. A 1992 study on Misconceptions about the Golden Ratio by Geroge Markowsky said, “The various claims made about the esthetic importance of the golden ratio seem to be without foundation.” It doesn’t take maths to know how beautiful Bristol is. All we have to do is stick our heads out the window and gaze upon it.