The Elusiveness of Beauty

A Blog by Linda Darlene

“The standard of beauty is not definite; we define it.” ~ Shamcey Supsup

I came across a website not too long ago that purported to list the ‘most beautiful websites of 2019.’ In viewing these sites, I reflected on what makes a website beautiful?  Beauty is generally construed to be a combination of qualities that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. The problem with this characterization is that what gives pleasure to me, may not provide you with gratification or lift your mind and spirit. This elusiveness of beauty is the subject of this week’s blog.

For years, I had heard about the beauty of the Grand Canyon. I finally had the chance to visit it with my husband, mom, and sister last year. I was in awe of its size, its vastness. It was indeed a wonder to behold, but I would not call it beautiful.  It wasn’t pretty, nice-looking or lovely to me. It was just a big hole in the ground, a massive, awe-inspiring, hole in the ground. 🙂

The Grand Canyon

Likewise, the original Seven Wonders of the World are described by Wikipedia as remarkable creations, meaning that they were extraordinary, exceptional, amazing, astonishing, astounding, marvelous, wonderful, sensational, stunning, incredible, unbelievable, miraculous, phenomenal, prodigious.  But were the Seven Wonders of the World beautiful? Like the Grand Canyon or like the most beautiful websites of 2019, does awe-inspiring mean ‘beautiful?’

The original Seven Wonders were creations of classical antiquity that were centered around the Mediterranean rim and Mesopotamia during the time of the ancient Greek civilization. They were:

    • Colossus of Rhodes
    • Hanging Gardens of Babylon
    • Lighthouse of Alexandria
    • Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
    • Great Pyramids of Giza
    • Temple of Artemis
    • Statue of Zeus at Olympia

Colossus of Rhodes

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Lighthouse of Alexandria

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Great Pyramids of Giza

Temple of Artemis

Statue of Zeus at Olympia

They were deemed ‘wonders’ by a Greek writer who had compiled this list of seven as the most impressive constructions known to man. He based his list on how popular these sites were among sightseers. My question is: does popularity translate to beautiful?

In 2007, a new list of the Seven Wonders of the World was unveiled. From a finalist list of 21, one hundred million people worldwide voted to determine the seven most spectacular sites that represented ‘perfection’ and ‘prosperity.’ You can hardly argue that these new wonders aren’t spectacular, but are they all beautiful in the traditional sense of the word?

    • The Great Wall of China
    • Machu Picchu — Peru
    • Roman Colosseum — Rome
    • Taj Mahal — India
    • Christ the Redeemer Statue — Brazil
    • Petra — Jordan
    • Chichén Itzá — Mexico

The Great Wall of China

Machu Picchu — Peru

Roman Colosseum — Rome

Taj Mahal — India

Christ the Redeemer Statue — Brazil

Petra — Jordan

Chichén Itzá — Mexico

I find the Alhambra in Spain to be beautiful. It made the list of the 21 finalists but did not make the top list of seven. I find it not only awe-inspiring but also lovely. The Alhambra began as a Moor palace and fortress located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain that was renovated over the centuries by conquering cultures. It is a site that is also popular among sightseers. It also represents prosperity, and it is a specimen of perfection, representing both Mudéjar and Renaissance architecture. I would argue that it is the eighth Wonder of the World, but, of course, this is based on my standard of beauty.

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain

La Alhambra

La Alhambra

Interior Courtyard

So all this rhetoric begs the question, are things that are popular beautiful? Is something beautiful because it is perfect? Are things that represent prosperity beautiful? Is a website that is awe-inspiring beautiful?

Not all websites will be considered works of art by everyone, even though someone lists them as ‘the most beautiful websites.’  With no clearly defined standard for beauty, web designers are left to follow a set of criteria for designing sites with which they personally resonate.

For example, below are images of seven websites. I selected these websites from lists of the ‘most beautiful websites’ as deemed by a few online sites. Take a look. Are these websites pleasing to you? Are they beautiful?

Would they make your list of beautiful sites or are they ‘wonders’ to behold for other reasons?

I would imagine that not all of these sites elicited pleasure for you or that you’d call all of them beautiful. They may have captured your attention for other reasons, but was it due to their beauty? You see, that’s the problem. Defining beauty is elusive, plain and simple.


FOOTNOTES
27 of the Best Website Designs to Inspire You in 2019
10 of the Most Beautiful and Inspirationally Designed Websites
21 Award-Winning Website Designs & What They Did Right


Chinese for Aesthetic

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