Tuesday 30 August 2022

Chester beats Venice, Belfast beats Rome...

 Fond though I am of Chester – a town I'll be visiting again the week after next, as it happens – I was startled to discover that it has been declared 'the most beautiful city in the world'. This is not a matter of opinion: it has been established by, ahem, 'science'. In fact it was established by applying one simple metric – the proportion of the city's buildings in which the Golden Ratio can be detected. The Golden Ratio, or the Divine Proportion, or the Golden Section, is an aesthetically pleasing proportion that is to be observed in nature as well as art, and can be expressed mathematically as 1:1.618033... etc. (an irrational number). The Golden Section makes a division such that the ratio between the smaller and the larger portion is the same as that between the larger and the whole. I remember once studying the façade of Palladio's great Venetian church Il Redentore (below) in terms of the Golden Section – the kind of exercise that can drive a fellow slightly mad, as once you see it, it seems to be everywhere. But in Chester? With its abundance of fake-Jacobethan street fronts, I would have thought it would score low on the Golden Ratio front. But no: according to the research project commissioned by, ahem again, Online Mortgage Advisor, the buildings of Chester have a higher incidence of the Golden Ratio (83.7pc) than Venice (83.3) or London (83) and Chester is therefore, er, 'more beautiful'. The complete Top Ten of most beautiful cities, by this criterion, are, from 1 to 10, Chester, Venice, London, Belfast, Rome, Barcelona, Liverpool, Durham, Bristol, Oxford – a truly bizarre ranking that might make the basis for a question in some esoteric quiz, maybe that incomprehensible TV show Only Connect

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