Symmetry: the quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis.

Asymmetry: lack of equality or equivalence between parts or aspects of something; lack of symmetry.

From Ancient Greece to the Renaissance, symmetry was omnipresent in the arts. Polykleitos the Elder (c.450-420 BCE), created sculptures representing the “perfect” anatomical proportions of the male nude based on mathematical geometry, symmetria.

His work later inspired artisans, over centuries, with traces of his work found in Renaissance architecture. Architects such as Leon Battista Alberti, Sebastian Serlio and Andrea Palladio deliberately emphasised symmetry and proportion in their work.

Leon Battista Alberti Santa Maria Novella image courtesy of www.bluffton.edu

Leon Battista Alberti Santa Maria Novella image courtesy of www.bluffton.edu

But what was so special about symmetry in art? It created something balanced, formal, organised and orderly. And at the time, beauty was associated with symmetry.

At first glance, even we, as human beings, appear symmetrical – two eyes, two ears, two arms and so on. Looking at the world around us, symmetry surrounds us, it is the dominant organisational concept. But some artists, rejecting a certain form of harmony, find beauty in imbalance.

Asymmetry has been favoured by numerous other artists and architects. And it is, in fact understandable. Asymmetry offers a bigger opportunity for experimentation and exploration. The result is often more playful and unconventional.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry, 2003 image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry, 2003 image courtesy of Wikipedia

This was the case of modernist and postmodern architects who were much more free to play around with their designs. This was the case of the controversial Ramot Polin apartments designed by modernist architect Zvi Hecker, in 1972.

Zvi Hecker Ramot Polin Apartments 1972-1978

Zvi Hecker Ramot Polin Apartments 1972-1978 image courtesy of archive of affinities | Tumblr

Asymmetry is also used in fashion. Whether it’s asymmetric hemlines, one-shouldered pieces, folding or draping, designers such as Josh Goot, Viktor & Rolf, and Rodarte have embraced this beautifully imperfect geometrical concept.

Josh Goot Resort 2016 | Viktor & Rolf 2010 | Rodarte SS14 image courtesy of IMAXtree

Jewellery designer Angela Ciobanu enjoys playing around with asymmetry in her work. With a background in architecture, Angela explores contemporary jewellery keeping in mind architectural conventions. Her jewellery mirrors her fascination with imperfections, she says, “the result is asymmetric, delicate, oblique and refined jewels”.

Angela Ciobanu Forget-Me-Not image courtesy of Angela Ciobnu

Angela Ciobanu Forget-Me-Not image courtesy of Angela Ciobanu

“Perfect symmetry doesn’t exist in nature, there is absolutely no detail created by nature that is perfectly mirrored.” Angela Ciobanu

The designer mostly enjoys working with oblique forms. Her jewels are modern as well as innovative: each ring has a small detail that makes a statement.

Angela Ciobanu

Angela Ciobanu

Discussing the construction process the talented designer claims her imperfect and asymmetrical construction will consequently filter beauty whilst unconsciously searching for ‘scratches’ in perfection. It is, therefore, the asymmetry that draws our attention to her captivating designs.

“I would like people to leave with a ‘butterflies-in-the stomach’ feeling and the impression that they won’t forget my work anytime soon.” Angela Ciobanu

DISCOVER ANGELA CIOBANU

Written by Jessica Leclercq

Edited by Christina Wright

 2D Design Notes (2016) Balance and Symmetry [Online] Available at http://daphne.palomar.edu/design/bsymm.html/ [Accessed 28/06/2016] New York Times (2009) LENS [Online] Available at http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/behind-10/?_r=1 [Accessed 28/06/2016] 

The Fashion Spot (2014) Everything’s Coming Up Asymmetrical for Spring 2015 [Online] Available at http://www.theukfashionspot.co.uk/style-trends/377419-fashion-trend-spring-2014-asymmetrical/#/slide/1 [Accessed 28/06/2016]

Watch Know Learn (Unknown) Understanding Asymmetry in Architecture [Online] Available at http://www.watchknowlearn.org/Video.aspx?CategoryID=7518&VideoID=30323 [Accessed 28/06/2016]