What’s your perspective?

Milwaukee Art Museum is an architectural blend of decades.  From the Eero Saarinen designed War Memorial from 1957, through David Kalher’s addition in 1975 to the organic 2001 Quadracci Pavilion by Santiago Calatrava the buildings themselves complement the art they contain.

On a sunny day there is the opportunity to play around with how we perceive space and how some compositions feel “right” while others just don’t even when the reason isn’t obvious.  Here’s the great hall of the Quadracci Pavilion, two compositions of essentially the same view.  Why do they seem so different?

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I following the rules taught for incorporating design elements into a composition.  The focal points are off center, there is an obvious leading line in the ceiling skylight pointing down to the people, who break up the lines of the image with organic shapes.  There is a range of tones from white to black.  Why does the bottom image simply feel more comfortable to look at than the top one?

Perhaps a couple of reasons.  Western minds are biased to view from left to right.  Doing so in the top image takes you to – nothing of great interest, just a blank grey wall.  Doing so in the bottom image leads you to – the people.  Also, the lines of light on the wall in the bottom image are much more interesting than the flat, grey surface of the wall in the top image.  Are these the little things that make an image more interesting than another?  What differences are you seeing that make a difference in how you feel about the two images?

In the hall off the Pavilion great room are the supports for the long hall that connects to the War Memorial.  Light is not forgotten here either, nor are interesting forms.


As a study in the use of geometry in architecture this is a wonderful piece of art.  By allowing light to enter from different directions it becomes a photographer’s dream.  You could all most stand and watch the light in this feature all day.

One great art issue in history was how to correctly portray vanishing perspective.  You’d think all an artist would have to do is view something like this and simply paint it.  Until the material strength of reinforced concrete became available, however, artists never saw this.  I’m wondering what Leodardo de Vinci would think of such a structure?


2 thoughts on “What’s your perspective?

  1. Fascinating comparison, Mel, between the first two images. It is definitely true for me that the second image “works” better for me, but it would be difficult for me to explain why. The idea of a bias in Western minds is intriguing.


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