Friday, September 3, 2010

Windmills & Aesthetics

While wasting time on the internet recently, I came upon two photographs of windmills on the German island of Fehmarn. (Now that I think about it, Caitlin and I might have passed by this island on our trip from Copenhagen to Lübeck a few years ago.)

The first shows a traditional windmill, the type which we Americans usually associate with the Dutch, but which, with variations, can be found across Europe--Don Quixote, after all, needed something to tilt at in Spain.

The second shows a modern windmill which is part of a windfarm on the island.

My question, to which I have no definite answer, is: When I compare these windmills for aesthetic purposes, why do I prefer the first windmill to the second? Am I just so obsessed with German culture that I prefer anything that looks German to me? That's possible. Am I just out of touch with the modern world and hankering for a tradition I've never been a part of? There's probably some truth to that accusation, too. Just maybe, though, I really am considering more purely aesthetic factors, such as the form of the structures, the materials, etc.

Nevertheless, whatever my own reasons for preferring the traditional windmill, I actually don't think that my aesthetic preference is all that uncommon; I suspect that many people share my instinctive aesthetic preference for the traditional windmill, and that many people still generally prefer traditional aesthetics to modern aesthetics. Why would that be, even though our culture generally looks down on tradition? It's a curious fact about our culture.

Finally, if a reader wants to defend the aesthetic superiority of the modern windmill, please go ahead and do so. I would love to hear that argument.

Source: The two pictures come from this slide show of the island. (The captions are in German, but if all you want is pretty pictures, who cares?)
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