“It’s a world of polarization.” Stop for a second and reflect upon it. Every single day we are making decisions, consciously or subconsciously. With how we live our lives, we have initially decided which path to go. “This one or that one?” – is the overall question. If we decide to go this route, we, unarguably, cannot walk that one – and these two paths might be completely different. So, we choose one over the other. Hence, we are ultimately presented with two main options in each moment that we can select from as we live our daily lives.

We are constantly required to choose between opposites. Sometimes, options are only slightly different; most times, they are extreme contrasts. Is there an inbetween? And then there are art and architecture that so wonderfully work with the tool of polarization. Without a doubt, they grab the attention of our minds.

Black and White

Angular – sharp contrasts including black and white as the overall symbol for all polarizations – Los Angeles, CA, USA

From political, religious, and cultural beliefs to career choices, the decision whether to have children or not, this tea or that type of coffee, traveling east or west, hot and cold, yes or no, left or right, back and forth, love versus hate, night and day, round and square, good and evil, peace versus conflict – and oh, just how many, seemingly endless, polarizations we can find if only we take a minute and think about our daily lives.

But besides all those opposites that exist, black and white might just be the most iconic extremes. They are symbolic for all polarizations we face – especially in the fine art and architecture scene.

Combine the extremes and you will have the true center – Friedrich von Schlegel

Just as this quote says, polarizations in art are necessary to grab the viewer’s attention and to guide his eye to the actual center of the piece of art. From squares and straight lines; large and small elements; rough and smooth texture – the tool of contrasting extremes is a powerful one, also in architecture, as shown above.

Evoking visual interest and excitement, those rather dramatic opposites let us pause for a moment and gaze at the work of architectural art. Going further, the juxtaposition of polar artistic elements can be related to our very lives, as they bring us clarity and present us with two sides. Yet, we are the ones to dig deeper and actually see the center between those two opposites. Because as we might be aware of, life is not only “black and white” even though we think that we always have to choose doing one thing or the other – on the contrary.

Shadow and Light

Curved – and a curve does not reach its full potential unless set against a straight line – Los Angeles, USA

Tying into this, we should feel encouraged to see polarization of elements – both in art, architecture and life – as an opportunity to think, reflect, and realize that there can be more than just two choices. It just requires more work to see other opportunities that might lie beneath what only seems black and white.

It is the same with light and shadow, those two opposites that we come across daily, either with natural or artificial lighting. But we can do both at the same time, in fact: standing with one foot in the light as the other one is in the shadow. It is what we ourselves create in that “center space” polarizations offer us, but that not many see.

A curve does not exist in its full power unless contrasted with a straight line – Robert Henri

The same goes for straight lines and curved elements. Polarizations in architectural art can be seen as the golden rule of creation. Hence, where there is no line, there cannot be a curve that is reaching its full potential. Applying this to our lives, we need to realize that we might initially have to make a decision, yet, it is up to us how we interpret and create the next steps we take as we are leaning towards this or that.

Do you believe everything is based on polarization?