The Architecture of Mandala

“In short, no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world only to the extent that it is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it.”

Christopher Alexander 

Design theorist, Emeritus Professor-Berkely

I create mandala designs when I seek time for quiet and meditation. I did not know how to put words to creating these designs until I came across Alexander’s quote about design. This quote is about architectural patterns, but the quote also describes the relationships found in mandalas.

A mandala is a complex abstract design of patterns that is usually circular in form. In fact, “mandala” is a Sanskrit word that means “circle”. Mandalas generally have one identifiable center point, from which an array of symbols, shapes and forms grow from. Mandalas can contain both geometric and organic forms. They can also contain recognizable images that carry meaning. They are great tools for meditation and increasing self-awareness.

Mandalas symbolize a state of mind. When I create my own mandala, I think of it as an snapshot of where I am “today.” The design makes “see-able” of the “unsee-able” of my spirit. I look inside myself and find the shapes, colors and patterns that represent something from my current state of mind to my deeply-desired wish for restoring harmony and balance. There is that satisfying element about having the freedom to choose whatever shapes and colors that I feel express my sense of self. They start with a center whose color, shape and pattern symbolize how my “center” might look at that particular time. From the center, my mandala designs flow out to support the beginning patterns. While single events in our life may seem chaotic, those events as a whole, reveal clear patterns. Looking for the patterns is a good way of doing a life check.

Alexander writes eloquently about design. I leave you with his criteria about what makes design or architecture harmonious. The universal truths about architecture also apply to living life in harmony.

  • A range of sizes is pleasing and beautiful.
  • Good design has areas of focus and weight.
  • Outlines focus attention to the centre.
  • Repeating elements give order and harmony.
  • The background should not detract from the centre.
  • Simple forms create an intense, powerful centre.
  • Small symmetries are better than overall symmetry.
  • Looping, connected elements give unity and grace.
  • Unity is achieved with visible opposites.
  • Texture and imperfections give uniqueness and life.
  • Similarities should repeat throughout a design.
  • Empty spaces offer calm and contrast.
  • Use only essentials; avoid extraneous elements.
  • Designs should be interconnected, not isolated.
  • Scale and echo create positive emotions.

Thank you for reading!