Complexity Explorer Santa Fe Institute

Technical Book

Fractal Geometry in Architecture and Design

Fractal geometry is the formal study of mathematical shapes that display a progression of never-ending, self-similar, meandering detail from large to small scales. It has the descriptive power to capture, explain, and enhance one's appreciation of and control over complex diversity. Natural shapes and rhythms, such as leaves, tree branching, mountain ridges, flood levels of a river, wave patterns, and nerve impulses, display this cascading behaviour. These fractal concepts are found in many fields, from physics to musical composition. Architecture and design, concerned with control over rhythm, and with such fractal concepts as the progression of forms from a distant view down to the intimate details, can benefit from the use of this relatively new mathematical tool. Fractal geometry is a rare example of a technology that reaches into the core of design composition, allowing the architect or designer to express a complex understanding of nature.

C. Bovill

← Back to Resources