The aesthetic of technical projects. The case of dams and wind turbines

E. Rokkou, The aesthetic of technical projects. The case of dams and wind turbines, MSc thesis, 114 pages, April 2016.



Every large development project of public interest, beyond its utility, represents a cultural element. Hence those who have planned and constructed the project have great responsibility towards society and future generations for the cultural identity of their work. Key element of the cultural identity of the project is it aesthetics. The purpose of this study is to identify the sense that one has, facing suddenly mega-structures - such as dams and wind turbines- in the natural environment. A sense that is experienced but it is not explicitly associated with internal psychological processes or objective characteristics of mega-structures. Furthermore, the study explores how these mega-structures can be aesthetically acceptable. Finally, the paper tries to highlight the need for these structures to be defined by techniques which will be driven by the economy and the ease of manufacture, as well as by the aesthetical contribution of architects and designers.

One’s personal experience viewing these major projects is described, with multiple emotions like admiration, excitement, fear, sadness, joy, pain, peace, contemplation. These emotions are caused by the aesthetics of "Beauty", "High", "Grace" and “Impressed” or “spectacular”. The above mentioned categories of aesthetics appear in philosophy and architecture and characterize different eras or styles.

Dams are very expensive development projects, with great economic efficiency. Because of their characteristic to be tailored, they cannot be standardized and replicated. Wind turbines are mega machines that serve the need of energy efficiency and autonomy, pursuing the public interest and contributing to social prosperity and the sustainability of the current welfare model. Dams , as engineering projects, have some kind of aesthetics because they follow the laws of nature. However there must be also extra features to show their beauty. Such features of aesthetic can be the size of the dams, their analogies and their symmetries, the building technique of the spillways, the interventions on the exterior walls and the main body, the decoration of the peak district, special lighting, ornamentation with work of art and the architecture of the supporting constructions.

Wind turbines have evolved into technological products of mass production that obey the principles of industrial design. Therefore an industrial design focused on functionality and profit is created for wind turbines. It is undisputed that the aesthetics can’t be restricted in a far viewing even if this is combined with the feel of safety that a well made construction provides. Aesthetics are also based on personal experience, depending on how each individual understands the meaning of the construction and this feeling is a fact that must be ascertained and associated with the perceptions of the era and culture it belongs to.. The 20th-century art has been highly marked with its attachment to the use and the commercial value of articles. In other words the quality and aesthetic aspects are being more and more replaced by quantitative features. It is often noticed that the feel of satisfaction that comes from the aesthetics of a creation can be related to an interest or possibly a personal benefit. Due to this different perception of the message social reactions are often occurred, for both dams construction and appearance of wind turbines, and a lot of logic arguments show up. These arguments deal with supervision, sociology, ontology and art and must be taken in serious consideration before the construction of dams or the installation of wind turbines

Both Dams and turbines should not only be practical necessities that serve humanity, but also projects that lead to an aesthetic pleasure rendering value, regardless their era or place. Concerning dams, the former will happen only if they are constructed as piece of art which will combine science, empirical knowledge and engineering, will promote the technical perfection that respects nature and will decrease the social impact. Regarding wind turbines, another form of art, that will incorporate contemporary trends in its morphology, is required. Besides, wind turbines are subject of contemporary industrial design of undoubtedly "advanced" aesthetic which arises from the technological perfection of their design. It is also required to continue the research in order to bring to market new innovative efficient wind turbines that will cope with environmental impacts brought by conventional turbines.

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