Optical Illusions in Architecture: Towards a Novel Classification of Architectural Works

By Paraskevi Panteliadou.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Optical illusions fascinate us, challenging our notion that what we see is real. They demonstrate that incoming sensory information is interpreted, yielding the internal representation of the world. Many illusions are found in architecture and, strangely enough, many of these were recognized long before painting developed beyond its primitive stages. The ever-changing relations of lines and forms in architecture as we vary our viewpoint introduce many illusions which may appear and disappear. This paper attempts to reveal the many illusions that are found in architecture from ancient times until today. From Ictinus and F. Borromini, to S. Calatrava and J. Nouvel, the study presents a list of selected projects –classified in three groups-that can reveal the magnitude of the illusory effect helping the observer to look for or recognize illusions. Particular concern of the paper lies in the way architects have approached optical illusions in each period and applied them in their projects in order to communicate ideas and concepts. For the purpose of showing the diachronic value of optical illusions in architecture, the study shows examples from classical architecture, where architects display a highly developed knowledge of many geometrical illusions, as well as from modern architecture where they introduce new illusory effects through digital technology.

Keywords: Architecture, Illusion, Optical, Visual Perception, Process

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.127-142. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 5.231MB).

Paraskevi Panteliadou

PhD Candidate, Department of Architectural and Urban Design, School of Architecture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece

Paraskevi Panteliadou, registered architect TEE-TCG, is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Architectural and Urban Design at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. In 2008 she obtained her Diploma in Architecture, followed by a Master degree in the Interdepartmental Postgraduate Programme: Architectural Design-Space-Culture in the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens. She has also studied Interior Architecture & Design at the School of Graphic Arts and Art Studies at the Educational Technological Foundation of Athens, graduated in 2002 with First Class Honours. She is currently active in both practice and academia participating in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching courses. Her academic research combines concrete investigations of architectural works with critical, theoretical perspectives, relevant to architecture and philosophy. In 2010, she and her partner Thanos Anastasiadis founded Apopsis Architects, an architectural and design practice based in Thessaloniki.