April 12, 2003
On the irony of airplane aesthetics

One of the great ironies of twentieth century aesthetics is that one of the most aesthetics-driven design enterprises, architecture, has been obsessed by its perceived aesthetic inferiority to one of the least aesthetics-driven design enterprises, namely aircraft design. Modernist architects queued up ever since the aircraft was invented to say that buildings should be like airplanes, in that the form of buildings should follow their function, in the way that the forms of aircraft followed their function. And the architects were right. If airplanes are beautiful, it is because they have to be beautiful.

There has been no more perfect illustration of this fact than Concorde, whose withdrawal from commercial service by both British Airways and Air France was recently announced.

The shape of Concorde was determined by the demands of aerodynamics. Since then, the other great legislator of airborne beauty has been stealth technology. Here too, amazingly beautiful shapes are created by the application of the most rigidly non-aesthetic considerations.

Airplanes. They're a bit like life, aren't they?

Just a thought. No time for more. Rushing off to a blogger social.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:35 PM
Category: ArchitectureDesign