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The connection between Art and Engineering

iTuesday, Apr 29th, 2014 comments by jamielee

Has it ever occurred to you that Liberal and Fine arts can make you a better engineer?

Most people would dismiss this idea and think I’m absurd for even thinking it, but the truth is there is a profound connection between art and engineering.  Creation of works of art and creation in engineering have much in common. How so? They both need a deep level of understanding of the ambiguous nature of real-life situations.

Art exposes us to the many examples of ambiguity and to forms of perception that do not exist in the normal realm of quantitative science and engineering. The essence of art is not quantitative, but nor are the universal principles…When an engineering student is able to go beyond the superficial form in order to appreciate a work of art they tap into their imagination. Engineering research is a creative act and the creation is always an expression of the imagination. Therefore, developing the imagination is sure to make you a better researcher.

Always remember that the most important part of research is not finding the solution but finding the problem. Identifying a problem needs insight and one cannot develop insight through merely solving problems. Identifying a problem is an inductive process and so is the appreciation of a work of art. If we focus only on solving problems in our chosen discipline, with its limited range of perception and expression, then we lose suppleness in our thinking as well as the insight that comes with understanding obscure relations.

Listening attentively to stimulating music, reading thought-provoking literature, examining pictorial or plastic art, learning a foreign culture, or even watching foreign films all have something to contribute to our education as engineers. The puzzling out of meaning in foreign cultures is not so different from the puzzling out of the meaning of engineering results; it is a constant exercise in induction.

When one hears the name, ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’, automatically, one would think of his famous paintings. What is not as commonly known is that Da Vinci is renowned in various scientific fields; civil and mechanical engineering, mathematics, pyrotechnics and hydrodynamics, to name a few. The full extent of his scientific contribution has only recently become recognized. However, during his lifetime, he was employed for his engineering and inventive skills, most notably the movable dikes he invented to protect Venice from invasion.

The same man responsible for creating masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa or the Last Supper, was also responsible for conceptualizing ideas that were greatly ahead of his time…flying machines, a calculator and the use of concentrated solar power (once again, to name a few).

So I encourage my fellow engineering students to find any form of artistic expression - be it music, poetry, photography etc. Get out there and express yourself! No matter how dismal the attempt may be…at the end of the day you will be a better engineer for it.


By Rozina Myoya

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