Friday, October 24, 2008

Escher on the Floor

Yesterday's library had a floor inspired by M.C. Escher, which made me wonder what else was out there modeled on Escher's work (even if he was too late to be steampunk).

The fundamental mathematics that make Escher's work suitable for floors (or walls) is that they are tessellations -- interlocking shapes that fill a plane. The easiest, and most popular, seems to be the cube tessellation that we saw yesterday. I found it done in concrete, in carpet, in parquet, and in stone tile.

concrete stain by Tom Ralston Concrete

Carpet at the Morgan's Hotel in NYC. Here's a similar rug.

Parquet at the Hotel Palomar

A quick review of the Sunshine City floor in Tokyo, above, makes it easy to see how to constuct this tessellation from simple squares. You need three colors. Four squares of the lightest makes up the top of the cube, and then each side is made up of one whole square with two half squares finishing it up. It's all done on a grid, so while you might get dizzy installing it, it wouldn't be too hard.

Tomorrow: even more Escher for the home.


Empress said...

So cool! Thanks for sharing.

shadowfoot said...

Nice pics and good explanation of how to make the design.

It got me wondering about some things though, because I've seen the pattern other places historically. It's an old pattern in quilting too, called "tumbling blocks", which quilts go back to Victorian times.... oooh wait, just re-read the Jay Walker article and it mentioned that the floor was Escher-like but based on the Victorian floor tile pattern called "tumbling blocks". Well, there you go, no justifications needed ;)

Did some other searching though and found that a 19th century physician and physicist, Hermann von Helmholtz ( called this design a type of illusion a Paradox Illusion.

And here's a picture of an 18th century tumbling blocks floor:

Going back further, but not on the floor, check out 15th c. Studiolo: (go down the page and click on "Enter the Studiolo" to see close-ups of the walls). More complicated than probably most people want to get into, but it's a really cool room.

Heather G

shadowfoot said...

Hi again,

Have you ever been to Mark Twain's house? It's in Hartford, CT. Victorian house but one of the more unusual ones -- appropriate for an unusual person. Here's a page from the Mark Twain House and Museum site on it: And in a shaded box to the right of the text is a link to a floor plan/map, where if you click on the different rooms it brings up a photo of each.

Doesn't really do the place justice though. If you get a chance, do see it. While most of us probably can't have (and don't necessarily want to have) all that fancy woodwork, there's illusion amidst all the woodwork. Some of what looks to be inlaid marquetry on the wall going up the stairs of the front hall for instance, are actually painted to look like marquetry. Hm, think I'll post about this on my livejournal...

Heather G


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