MC Escher – Tessellations – Tiling patterns

June 17th, 2016 Sections: From an Expat, News
Day and Night by MC Escher

Day and Night by MC Escher

Today happens to be the birthday of one of the great artists of the Twentieth Century – Maurits Cornelis Escher, better known as M.C. Escher … or simply Escher.

As a former Maths teacher, I found a great fascination in the mathematically inspired graphics that he created – woodcuts and lithographs, whether they were inspired by patterns that he observed in nature, tessellations (or tiling patterns), drawings of impossible objects, reflections and symmetry, explorations of infinity, mathematical solids … or whatever.

kgoutThinking of the birds flying East to West … and West to East, in Day and Night … I have often wondered, for example, what he might have made of an outline map of Kyrgyzstan …

As it happens, yesterday I saw an article on AkiPress that I think would have intrigued him … about Agama,  a special project, that has been launched to “document, digitize and preserve the Islamic geometric patterns and title-work of Central Asia”.

Three friends, two architects and an engineer from Google, have put together the project to document the decorative architecture and tile work which may be considered endangered … from the ravages of aging, (which may well be emphasized and accelerated by the changes brought about by climate change), natural calamities such as earthquakes … but also from man-made threats such as attempts to modernize cityscapes … botched attempts at renovation … or even destruction at the hands of combatants as conflicts ensue.

An old photograph showing the cannibalised tower

An old photograph showing the cannibalised tower

The Burana Tower, for example … originally 45 meters tall only the bottom 25 remain – the top was lost in an earthquake in the 15th century.  The tower has an octagonal base and on this was constructed a conical tower.   On the outside of the tower is pattern of relief work in brick. The remains were “canabalised” by local people who took the bricks from the base for their building – photographs of the tower before reconstruction in the 1970s can be seen in the small museum and show this clearly.

Safed Bulan

Safed Bulan

Safed Bulan, is another example, in Southern Kyrgyzstan underwent major restorations in 1978 and 1996.  Apparently the restorations made things worse in that they used concrete instead of traditional materials – resulting in damage to the microclimate inside.  Later, a grant from the US government allowed for new work to be undertaken to correct the damage.

They felt that it was important to try and preserve these cultural examples for future generations … and bringing their collective expertise together put together plans for the project.

With grant funding from the Center for Architecture in New York they set out on a six-week journey across Turkey, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, (but not, apparently – unfortunately, to Kyrgyzstan), documenting the different tile patterns found in the historical architecture in the region … then converting images of the tile patterns into formats that can be made available in an open source library, accessible to architects, artists, mathematicians, and software engineers – anyone who is interested … who can potentially adapt the patterns for modern purposes.

Central Asia, they decided, would be a great place to do this.

The Uzgen Complex

The Uzgen Complex

As I said, it’s a pity that Kyrgyzstan wasn’t on their itinerary … although we don’t have as many, or as well preserved examples, and those that we do have are not as spectacular as ma many to be found throughout the region … we do, however, have some … and they are under threat.

Apart from the two examples I mentioned above … there is the Manas Mausoleum in Talas … and the Uzgen Architectural Complex where the mausoleums exhibit a variety of tiling patterns and styles.

 

The have a website … but, unfortunately, it doesn’t have much information,  but there is more information available elsewhere … such as on medium.com or curbed.com

 

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