If asked what are the painterly aspects of a building and what are the sculptural aspects of a building, refer to the elements of design. Painterly aspects are symmetry, balance, repetition, variety, rhythm, color, and value. Sculptural aspects are relief, in-the-round, installation, and texture. The Ishtar Gate from Babylon (Baghdad), c. 575 BC, represents both sets of design elements. Draw a line down the center of the gate and symmetry and balance are evident: left and right are equally weighted and for everything on the left, there is an identical unit on the right. There is a repetition of color, shapes, stripes, dots, and decorative animals. Variety is evident in the different types of animals. Colors are complimentary: orange and blue.




The animals and decorative designs are high value and the blue color of the bricks is low value. Sculpturally, the animals are in relief (they slightly bulge outward), the gate stands on its own (in-the-round), and the viewer can walk under and into its space. It is made of glazed brick so the texture alternates between rough and smooth.

The interior view of the nave of the Cathedral of Chartres. has a similar design based on symmetry and balance. Every vertical line on the left has a corresponding line on the right. The linear pattern on the ceiling demonstrates a rhythmic spacing of lines and triangular shapes. As the interior was constructed of a single type of stone, the coloration of the walls and ceiling is consistent. Stained glass windows at the top right and left walls allow for high value light to enter the space and also small splashes of primary colors – blue, red, and yellow. This introduces variety into a routine interior. As the cathedral is the sight of contemplation and prayer, the interior is conducive to quiet and solemn thoughts. During the Gothic era when this cathedral was constructed, the intention was to create a building, which not only was pleasing as the “House of God” but also replicated the perfection and harmony that exists in God’s universe. They believed that as God created the earth with reason, harmony, and balance, so should architects construct cathedrals with equal attention to mathematical and geometrical elements of design.