Architectural Proportion – The Golden Mean


 It’s almost impossible to discuss composition and architectural proportion without referring to the golden mean, also called the golden section. Readers of Dan Brown’s mega-bestseller The Da Vinci Code may recall the description of that formula in the book. As a brief refresher, the golden mean is the original organizing and proportioning method or formula for art and architecture. Its theory tells us that human beings are most pleased when things are in a proportion of 1 to 1.618. In other words, if a window is one unit wide, it should be 1.618 units tall in order to be the most appealing to human eyes. The golden mean was used prominently in Greek and Roman architecture and is just as useful in today’s world. Indeed, the same ratio that was applied to the design of the Parthenon is likely to aid your architect in the design of your new home.

Architectural Proportion

The golden mean offers a comfortable proportion with which to work, but it’s not the only comfortable proportion, so you don’t have to feel locked into it. The intriguing thing about the golden mean, about placing things at this scale, is that it just about always works. Consider it a safety net for proportions.

A bit of architectural trivia: A classic and pervasive curved shape used to this day in crown moldings, wood trims, and other architectural details is the ogee curve. The “ogee” is a direct derivative of the golden mean. This curve originates with the Greeks and shows up in the columns we place on our front porches, crown moldings we place in our living rooms, and even the curves that are shaped into the aluminum gutters outside our houses. Who knew that ancient Greek classical design would eventually create aluminum gutters?

I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch


  1. Vijay Bachkaniwala on March 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Dear Bill,
    I am a resident of India. I am a tutor. I have heard of the Golden Ratio. Its my dream to build my own Home (even if it takes a little while). How best can you guide me?
    Love Vijay.

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on March 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm

      Vijay – I think the best way to start is to read my book, Designing Your Perfect House. It is full of advice on starting your house design and how to develop it into a house design that is perfect for you. You can buy one from Amazon as a hard cover copy or as a Kindle book.

      Let me know if you have any questions along the way. I often do hourly consulting for people who are designing their own houses, too.

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