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The oval – creating beauty with numbers

New book All Sides to An Oval is packed with new findings revealing how to create these beautiful shapes

Heidelberg | New York,  5 July 2017

Book cover: All Sides to an Oval The oval has been used probably more than any other similar shape to build arches, bridges, amphitheatres, churches and windows. Angelo A. Mazzotti’s new book investigates some of the most intriguing types of oval historically used. It also provides an essential guide for anyone using the oval shape today to make objects, design buildings, stadiums or as a means of artistic creation.

Mazzotti says: “An ellipse is nature, it is how the planets move, while the oval is human, it is imperfect.”

This imperfection is also a source of freedom for the architect, civil engineer or artist. Ellipses have a precise mathematical shape, while an oval has often been an artist’s attempt to approximate it, to come close to perfection. Freed from a single mathematical formula, the creator can actually choose the properties and shapes they want to employ. This book provides the in-depth knowledge they will need to optimize the shape to fit their technical and artistic requirements.

One of the most mysterious ovals in historical architecture is the dome in the church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane in Rome. This was the architect’s Francesco Borromini’s first independent work, begun in 1634 and continued until his death in 1667. In the ground plan he drew, the geometrical construction is clear. However, these drawings were made over 25 years after he began and don’t actually correspond to the building. This anomaly has fueled a mystery surrounding how he actually planned and carried out the work.

The book includes a chapter with a new hypothesis on how Borromini mastered the oval. Mazzotti argues that he knew the effect he wanted to create, such as the rhythm to the space, its airiness and luminosity. Many ovals have been created using knowledge gleaned by word of mouth or by trial and error, but Mazzotti’s analysis reveals Borromini as a modern artist working on a scientific basis. Just as in musical theory, beauty can be born from numbers.

With an MA in mathematics and PhD in operations research, Angelo A. Mazzotti has been a high school teacher for more than 20 years. In 2011, he returned to research to study polycentric curves and ovals in particular, and started working as a freelance mathematician. Angelo is also a game inventor and a jazz singer.

Angelo A. Mazzotti

All Sides to an Oval
1st ed. 2017, X, 160 p. 129 illus., 126 illus. in color.
Hardcover $29.99, €29,99, £16.50 ISBN 978-3-319-39374-2
Also available as an eBook 978-3-319-39375-9

Further information
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Journalists can request a review copy of the book All Sides to an Oval.


Christina Theis | Springer | Communications
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