How Architecture Can Trick Your Brain

It’s all about perspective. Ever wonder how a building looks deceptively large from the outside but turns out to be surprisingly cramped once you walk through the door? No, this isn’t a Harry Potter situation– architects and designers have several tricks up their sleeves to manipulate the eye. These techniques are often used for decorative effect or to enhance the aspects of a “performance,” both literally and figuratively. Here’s how.

This Thing Looked a Lot Taller From the Ground…

Ever been to a Disney Park? Those iconic castles were built to be seen from a mile away, effectively drawing patrons into the hub of the theme parks. While Cinderella’s Castle in Florida may appear massive, it’s actually only about 189 feet tall– and its California counterpart reaches only 77 feet. So how do they appear so big? Disney designed their castles with decreasing proportions on every level– the highest turret on Cinderella’s Castle is only about half as big as it appears. The “bricks” that make up the castles are smaller the higher they are, along with the windows and towers. Standing on the ground in front of these structures, the tops appear to be much farther away than they actually are; we assume the distance is greater because we’re used to objects “shrinking” the farther away we stand.

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Invisibility might be more attainable than you think. Some modern home designs, characterized by rectangular prisms and cubes set against one another, provide the perfect opportunity for a cool optical illusion. When placed correctly, mirrored exterior walls reflect nothing but the sky above them, making the building “blend in” with its natural backdrop. While perhaps not the greatest idea around any low-flying airplanes, this nonetheless creates a unique effect for bystanders.

The TARDIS Effect

While architects may not have access to a magical time machine shaped like a telephone booth, they can replicate the effect to some extent. Some buildings are considerably roomier inside than they appear to be. The easiest way to leverage this effect is to build a house on an incline, where the entrance is located at the peak and lower floors continue out of sight along the slope. This is more a way to use tricky natural environments to their full advantage than an illusion, but it makes for an interesting sight in some cases. One of the best examples of this is the Flatiron Building in New York City, famous for its triangular shape. When viewed straight on from the triangle’s “point,” the building appears much narrower than it actually is. If nothing else, this unique architectural choice has certainly had an effect on tourist sightseeing routes in the city!

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