The Power of Limits

Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art, and Architecture

György Doczi

Softbound, Large format, profusely illustrated


One of the delights of life is the discovery and rediscovery of patterns of order and beauty in nature – the designs revealed by slicing through a head of cabbage or an orange, the forms of shells and butterfly wings.  These images are awesome not just for their beauty, but because they suggest an order underlying their growth, a harmony existing in nature.  What does it mean that such and order exists; how far does it extend?

The Power of Limits begins with such simple discoveries of harmony and goes on to investigate and measure hundreds of patterns — ancient and modern, minute and vast.  Doczi’s discovery, vividly illustrated here, is that certain proportions occur over and over again in all these forms.  Patterns are also repeated in how things grow and are made — by the dynamic union of opposites — as demonstrated by the spirals that move in opposite directions in the growth of a plant.

The joining of unity and diversity in the discipline of proportional limitations creates forms that are beautiful to us because they embody the principles of the cosmic order of which we are a part; conversely, the limitlessness of that order is revealed by the strictness of its forms.  The author shows how we, as humans, are included in the universal harmony of form, and suggests that the union of complementary opposites may be a way to extend that harmony to the psychological and social realms as well.

I personally see The Power of Limits as a revelation of the beauty and wisdom of limitation itself.  Each form is limited by its inner orderly nature as well as outer, imposed limitations.  Were such limitations not to exist, undifferentiated growth would manifest in everything and, frankly, beauty would never result; nor would function.  And there would be no possibility of and form of self-awareness arising from such a cacophony as would result without limits.  In other words, the harmony, order, and beauty that abounds everywhere would be impossible, as would human beings and nature itself as we know them.

I have lived with this book for almost 40 years and still find it one of the most profound studies ever published.  It is as revealing and wise as the forms it studies – I hope many, many people are able to experience it.

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