Merleau-Ponty proposed ‘Vision is the
brain’s way of touching.’ I couldn’t agree more, as it is the most compelling
sense possessed by architects and is essential to turn abstract concepts into
An illusion is a deceptive impression of
reality; an instance of a wrong or misinterpreted perception of sensory
experience. Men have been practicing illusions in architecture since antiquity.
The sense of space can be modulated by altering ‘proportions and appearance’ of
building elements. Architects achieve this by creating illusions of shape,
scale, texture, distance, ‘weightlessness,’ and even ‘dematerialisation’ of the
Vitruvius noted that, Agatharchus, the self
taught painter from Samos, in Ancient Greece, was the first to realize that
parallel lines converge to a single ‘vanishing point.’ The early history of
perspective began ‘after the end of the Greco- Roman’ period. The technique was
developed during the Italian Renaissance, the time of ‘rebirth,’ when artistic
growth and discovery burgeoned.
We find the most famous use of illusion in
the construction of the Parthenon by Ancient Greeks. In the contemporary world,
we often see the use of illusionism in architecture to control the appearance
of form and fabric of structures. ‘Diminishing courses,’ are often used to
create facades that seem much larger than they are in reality. I find Prague’s ‘Dancing House,’ also
known as ‘Fred and Ginger,’ by architect Vlado Milunic, built in collaboration
with Frank Gehry to be one of the notable example of illusionism. One of the
dual towers of the building appears to be twisted, warped and squished up
against the other.
The alluring thing about illusions is they
make us realise things may be different from what they appear, and that our
experiences of the world fashion our comprehension of it.