Smal Srf Daniel Sik

Structure, function and beauty are considered the three core principles of architecture. The latter, however, has suffered a long and noticeable absence from contemporary architectural criticism and theory. From the pragmatic rationalism of the enlightenment to the purist functionalism of modernism, beauty has become buried beneath a towering critical taboo. It has become superfluous and shallow, even gluttonous; burdened by associations with imperialism and premodern pretension. In short: we have become afraid to discuss it, which I intend to do.

The next generation of architects faces growing doctrines of nihilism, cultures of waste, mental health epidemics, and a multitude of other spiritual and ethical dilemmas. The growing importance of civil and structural engineering, as well as the development of artificial intelligence and automated design interfaces, threaten the identity of our profession at large.  Amongst all this, ugly cities sprawl relentlessly into the distance. Architects cannot address these issues with rationalist functionalism alone. I propose that a return to the pursuit of beautiful buildings can soothe the maladies of our complex age and help us relocate a vital piece of our identity as designers.

Existing literature in the field of architectural theory and aesthetic philosophy is often mundanely cyclic and relatively antiquated. I intend to reassess this knowledge relative to the true context of beauty, which is this human mind. To do this, I consolidate ancient empirical wisdom with recent literature concerning perceptual psychology, evolutionary biology and neuroaesthetics. I aim to formulate a psychological model of architectural aesthetic appreciation, which both validates existing aesthetic thought and enables architectural designers to see beauty in a new way. Beauty is, in fact, vital and achievable, and designers are fully equipped to pursue it by virtue of their humanity.

F Daniel Sik
Revised Architecture You See When You Push Down Too Hard On Your Eyeball Daniel Sik

This thesis is driven by the simple conviction that some buildings are beautiful, and some others are not. We often hear that beauty is subjective, and I don’t disagree. However, to many, subjectivity implies infinite variability. This, in turn, results in the belief that it is possible to find anything beautiful. But think what this means! If anything is beautiful to someone, then nothing can be beautiful to everyone. If so, architecture can never truly be beautiful. In fact, who can say that beauty exists at all? Yet, I am convinced that beauty is real, and this is confirmed to me every time I delight in a widely admired building. I must argue that, although the notion that ‘someone out there finds this building beautiful’ is universally validating, a more lucid approach is necessary to produce architecture of value.

In reality, beauty is subjective because it is a response of delight and pleasure originating from the subject. And who are the subjects of architecture? It is you and I, who are human. Beauty will only be as variable as the subjects, and many things bind us together as a species. We are limited in our ability to become anything but talkative bipedal apes, who may differ in size and colour, but are unified in our unique penchant for material possessions. It is clear to me that the buildings we delight in will also be similar in such a manner.

Yuy 01 Daniel Sik


This thesis develops to address the spirit of anti-aestheticisation that has persisted since the onset of early modernism. There remains a deafening reluctance to discuss beauty, and a tendency to dismiss it as an abstract and personal concern. Such aesthetic indifference may even be admired as functionalist sobriety. 

This opportunity to design without delight has been welcome most eagerly by developers wishing to fulfil their needs at the lowest possible cost. The resulting onslaught of ugly, boring buildings continues to plague us today. This thesis aims to counter this. I propose that the pursuit of beauty can go hand-in-hand with the architectural concerns of our age. To prove this, I justify the concept of beauty through various cultural lenses. 

The functionalist will find that beauty has a purpose; the postmodernist, that it is sincere. The environmentalist will find that beauty is ethical, and that it directs us towards our moral duty. Because of this, the pursuit of beauty is, and will continue to be, vital to architecture. 

Columbarium Plans B Daniel Sik
Columbarium Daniel Sik
All Pages57 Daniel Sik
All Pages58 Daniel Sik
All Pages59 Daniel Sik
All Pages64 Daniel Sik

Finished Product

The main product of this thesis was a critical framework that made available new ways of approaching beauty as designers. This took the form of a psychological model; explaining the process by which the human brain perceives beautiful architecture, from vision to delight. By consolidating emerging literature in perceptual psychology and neuroaesthetics, I traced the experience of beauty to the balance between primal cognitive impulses.

To solicit a response of delight and pleasure, a designer must intuitively pick apart the inner workings of the visual brain. Just as an excellent tailor snips and stitches their garment to flatter the curves of the human body, the excellent architect must mould their building to fit the intricate folds and fancies of the human brain. 

The resulting project intends to demonstrate and prove the outcomes of this critical framework. Although this project may function as a funerary complex, I have deliberately chosen not to discuss it in terms of its function or structure. I believe that if a design must be understood on pragmatic terms before it is beautiful, it is not truly beautiful at all. Instead, these images of architecture are solely created to be beheld; and any feelings they arouse demonstrate the findings contained within my thesis. 

Columb Bright
All Sections
Elevation Srf Dom
Elev Dom

Critic's Text

Here is another world: a world apart and a world of unfamiliar emotive power. We look into Daniel’s drawings and find architectural space at a heroic scale and mass at the same time that we see organisational legibility without a familiar economy of means. 

Daniel supplants the more well-trodden route of historical research into the philosophical discourse of beauty with neuropsychological research while undertaking an exploration of his propensity for a classical language of form. He argues convincingly, based on recent scholarly scientific research, that, without reference to optically-visual perception, we are neurologically inclined to find certain regular forms ‘more pleasing’, as he puts it: those that are asymmetrical. 

In developing forms which manifest these aesthetic and formal obsessions, Daniel assumed normative modern and classical modes of representation towards a world of surreal-classicism which hybridised science and tradition, recalling the 17th century querelle des Anciens et Modernes medico-archaeological background. Here, the monumental funerary complex Daniel presents as a means by which to explore ‘the beautiful’ explores a very new and personal classicism even if the figures which populate his extraordinary graphical world suggest otherwise. Programmatically the thesis imagines sublime and very public death rituals which, perhaps more than anything, seem in the very strange first months of 2020, appropriately apocalyptic.   

— Michael Milojevic, supervisor