Boston Manor, London: Harmonious Proportion Exemplified

Here are three photographs of an old house in London called Boston Manor. It was built in 1622, and is listed on Wikipedia as in the Jacobean style. A friend of mine just sent them to me, saying, ‘This seems to exemplify what you have been talking about!’

Here is the front view. You can see the three windows are in different sizes according to classical proportion. There is a rhythmic progression in the three different sized windows that dominate our perception of its design. It creates a harmonious relationship between each of them in which the first is to the second as the second is the first.


It is a musical chord in brick and plaster.


Now, here is the back of the building. You can see that in order to squeeze in the door, they have abandoned proportion in favour of three equal sized windows. I don’t know if this is part of the original design or a later modification (I suspect the latter).

Uh oh! What’s happened in the middle?

Uh oh! What’s happened in the middle?

Instantly it is apparent that this little column of equal sized windows is at odds with the rest of the building. I’m guessing that these windows let light into a staircase, but I suggest it was a mistake for the architect to do it this way.

Equal spacing is the design principle of most buildings built in the modern era. When the whole building uses equal spacing the result, as I have described before is dull monotony.

Surely there must be some architects out there, who can see that you could use the principle of harmonious proportion in contemporary designs and so unite them to the traditions of the past by applying them in a new way. Once we get an architect who works this out, they will be in demand before any other in the country!

I know that is a variation on an often repeated message, but the importance of this cannot be overstressed, and I will keep bringing it up until we see modern architects using proportion well once again. It is simply not an optional extra that architects might like to think about, this is the traditional way of embedding the code of the beauty of the cosmos into our environment. Mathematical proportion is not the only element that makes for this cosmic beauty, but it is an essential element. Any architect who considers him or herself Christian and doesn't use these ideas should reflect very carefully on why not. 

For those who wish to find out more about the mathematics of proportion read my book The Way of Beauty or do the course on the Mathematics of Beauty which is part of the Master of Sacred Arts program at www.Pontifex.University.

And before you do so please, forget ideas about the Golden Proportion, it is a modern myth that it has anything to do with beauty!

For contrast, here is a picture of that Tube station. As we can see, any similarity between this and the original manor is purely coincidental!