Of forms existing in Nature, the curve is one that the human eye follows with ease. It suggests flow, continuity, and life-affirming sensuality. While the curve has been captured in a mathematical expression, its poetic charge has not.
Not a whimsical gesture for its own sake, but a design tool to manage expectations within experience, form within requirements, efficiency within economic imperatives in the long run. Above all, the curve is an emotional response to often uninviting massing, thus challenging the supremacy of orthogonality, which reigned in the avant-garde of the modernist circles but has remained unpopular with the public. What was necessary in the 1920s to purge architecture of ornamental excesses became a suffocating dogma in the 1970s. Architects of ambition are deploying a new curvaceousness to inform great spaces. Designers can use curvature in everything from the site plan to the ceiling detail to deal with practical necessities without losing sight of the bigger picture: to relate the building to the formal fundamentals of the natural world, where not a single straight line is to be found. The lessons that the Art Nouveau, the Vienna Secession, and the Liberty Style delivered to us in the past are more relevant than ever in the 21st century.
Curves have been cyclically celebrated and repudiated in architecture. Capricious for some, poetic for others, their place is strictly linked to the formal paradigm of each era. Circles bring with themselves symbolically charged forms. Their centrality is laden with mysticism and often extended to encompass all that is sacred. From the domes dotting the skyline of the ancient city of Rome to the visionary projects of Étienne-Louis Boullée, the roundness of circles implies maximum density and efficiency of form. The free curve is a further achievement learned through the design of modern landscapes, conceived in reciprocity with the organic in nature. Rather than imposing Euclidean geometry on the garden, landscapers drew inspiration from observing growth in nature. The leap of the free curve into the built environment took place in the 20th century as the dogmatic adherence to the XYZ space formation crumbled. Nature became, once again, a source of inspiration for architects. Sea shells, clouds, sections of tree trunks, birds, wings were but a few of the awakening evidences about the power of curvilinear forms. Because architecture is profoundly rooted in the processes existing in nature, curvilinear design is a most precious option to architects.