As I embark on a new laser cutting project, I’m diving deep into patterns, tessellations, and polyhedrons. These are patterns of perfection, one unit exactly like the next. But the deeper I go into this research, the more I’m drawn to the theme of “almost perfect.” It’s popping up everywhere. In nature there is pattern and variation like in kernels on an ear of corn or in leaves on a branch. They’re all the same, but they are slightly different from one another. And in music there is the concept of “theme and variation.” The theme is the perfect and variation the imperfect. Alone they are flat little pieces but, paired, theme and variation create something rich, complex, and whole.
Christopher Alexander’s 1977 book, A Pattern Language, is filled with imperfect patterns that help us to design better buildings, towns, and cities. “Something Roughly in the Middle” is a pattern from that book. The pattern doesn’t discard symmetry but asks us to play with it a bit. When designing a courtyard, he says, place a sculpture or a fountain roughly in the middle. Resist the urge to place it dead center.
Like I said, this theme is everywhere. I even heard super-model Tyra Banks tell one of her contestants on America’s Next Top Model, ‘You want your photos to be perfect, but not quite perfect. Because that’s what makes a great photo, when something is slightly off.’
So thank you, universe, for pointing out the almost perfect. And let me ask you dear readers, what are your favorite examples of “almost perfect”?