When the great architect Philip Johnson first visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, he started to cry. "Architecture is not about words. It's about tears," Johnson reportedly said. Something about the museum's majestic curves moved him at an emotional level. Many others must get a similar feeling, because the building is usually ranked among the most important in modern times.
Whether or not Johnson and Gehry realized it, the Bilbao and its swirling façade tapped into a primal human emotional network. Time and again, when people are asked to choose between an object that's linear and one that's curved, they prefer the latter. That goes for watches with circular faces, letters rendered in a curly font, couches with smooth cushions--even dental floss with round packaging.