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Symmetry in Design and Its Importance

Do you look at elegant structures and wonder how they can be so effortlessly beautiful? Or what would those structures look like if they were proportioned differently? Why are symmetrical buildings so satisfying?  You will get your answer to all these questions if you conceive the importance of symmetry in design.

Symmetry has been used in architecture for thousands of years as an integral part of the design– from the Pyramids in Egypt to the Taj Mahal, from the temples in Asia to ancient Greece, as well as many cities of the world today. You can also find symmetry in the works of contemporary architects like FL Wright, Louis Kahn, and Santiago Calatrava. 

Symmetry in design is prevalent in so many ways. It has become a notable sign of thoughtful consideration. For instance: the arrangement of floor tiles in symmetrical patterns, symmetrical placement of doors and window panels, one façade of a building mirroring the other while keeping the entrance in the middle, and more.

In this article, we will cover the importance of symmetry in design, its significance, and how you can achieve it. So keep reading ahead as we discuss  in detail!

What Is Symmetry?

Before we dive further into the topic, let’s first understand what symmetry means.

Symmetry is the arrangement and even distribution of forms and spaces on either side of a dividing line, plane, or axis.

Symmetry in design pertains to the geometry of a structure– if its shape remains identical on the other side of the axis after flipping. In architecture, symmetry is a unifying concept that binds all the design aspects together and establishes a sense of rationality.

Role Of Symmetry In Architecture

Symmetry plays a massive yet subtle role in architecture. It helps in instilling balance, order, harmony, stability, and aesthetically appealing results in a building. As a result, it also influences the architectural space to a great extent.

Consider the Acropolis of Athens, the Angkor Wat of Cambodia, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia, or even the Forbidden City in China.

You can see how these majestic structures tick all the above boxes even from afar. Each of these structures look more pronounced because their architectural forms are symmetrical in some way or the other. Therefore, symmetry plays a major role in the form and shape of any building.

In addition, symmetry in architecture can also prescribe the construction materials. For instance, the repetitive installation of pillars, columns, windows, slabs, or walls dictates the use of reinforced concrete, wood, stones, glass, etc.

Classifying Symmetry In Architecture

Symmetry in architecture is categorized into two broad groups, namely: 

  • Point group: this group relies on a specific reference point in a building.
  • Space group: unlike the point group, this group lacks a reference point as it focuses on the spatial element of the building.

Based on these two groups mentioned above, symmetry is classified into the following types:

1. Bilateral Symmetry

symmetry in design
Taj Mahal; Image source: usplash.com

This kind of symmetry is illustrated in structures that produce two identical halves along a horizontal or vertical axis as if they mirror each other. That’s why this commonly used symmetry is called “reflection symmetry.” One of the most prominent examples of bilateral symmetry is the Taj Mahal.

2. Rotational Symmetry in design

symmetry in design
Lotus temple in Delhi; Image source: https://so.city/delhi/article/lotus-temple
symmetry in design
U.S. Capitol; Image source: wikipedia.org

Rotational symmetry can be explained using a circle. You can rotate the axis at any specific degree around the central point of the structure, but it will look symmetrical. Architects use this symmetry in domes or circular planned structures like the Lotus Temple and the United States Capitol to exhibit a sense of rhythm and movement.

3. Cylindrical Symmetry

symmetry in design

Cylindrical symmetry is the vertical extension of the rotational symmetry that stays symmetric even after rotating it at any degree. Architects mainly use this symmetry in towers to showcase their gravity-defying nature.

symmetry in design
Cenotaph; Image source: archdaily.com

Another example of this symmetry is found in spherical structures, like the Cenotaph of Sir Isaac Newton.

4. Chiral Symmetry

Chiral symmetry is the situation when a structure exhibits two similar elements that imitate each other with the help of a mirror plane. However, you cannot superimpose these two halves upon each other. You can see how chiral symmetry is executed by looking at Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City or the Petronas twin towers.

symmetry in design
St. Peter’s Square; Image source: https://foursquare.com/
Petronas towers; Image source: unsplash.com

5. Translational Symmetry 

You will get this symmetry if you repetitively arrange elements (columns or arches) in one particular direction. While this symmetry usually boasts of being the tallest or the longest, it can also be the broadest by duplicating the entire design module over a large area.

Five-storied Pagoda; Image source: wikipedia.com

6. Similar Symmetry in Design

A similar symmetry is the retention of form when elements get repeated but their scale changes. This symmetry often shrinks structures to create a higher order of unity in their composition, just like in the Opera House in Sydney.

Opera house; Image source: https://pixabay.com/

7. Spiral/Helical Symmetry in design

If you transpose the previous similarity symmetry onto multiple levels of the space yet do not take up the entire region, you will end up with a spiral form. You will usually find this symmetry in winding staircases.

Spiral staircase; Image source:https://www.pandotrip.com/


Symmetry is both an expression and the driving force behind the development of design and prosperity in society. Understanding the importance of symmetry in design gives us a clear idea of how various components are interrelated. It also presents us with a range of design possibilities. Is it not true? 

So keep learning and applying your knowledge of symmetry in every building you see.

By Sreyoshi Dhali

While finding her solace in silence and everything mundane, Shreyosi prefers to untangle the chaos inside her head and makes an effort to paint scenarios with words that keep her awake at night.

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