Origin of a geometric tile design pattern?
March 4, 2017 1:30 AM   Subscribe

We're trying to pinpoint the origin of this modernist geometric encaustic tile design pattern. It's still produced in Spain (where they're called baldosas - or losas - hidráulicos, one factory calling it "Lebrija". In those colours in particular, it's reminiscent of futurist graphics in the style of Balla or Depero. But it might just as likely just be a regional Spanish-moresque standard?

I've tried permutations of TinEye/GoogleImages search and, as well as pinerest's associative search, which found this variant.

Is there a repertoire of common geometrical patterns (for tile design or otherwise) somewhere online that I'm not finding?
posted by progosk to Grab Bag (6 answers total)
[argh, spelling: pinterest.]
posted by progosk at 1:31 AM on March 4

That tile is quarter of the pattern, so would be hard to find in isolation. Given the name, there's a chance that it's from the Palace of the Countess of Lebrija in Seville. The palace is richly patterned, and it's likely used somewhere in it.

As an amateur scholar of geometric patterns, I'd say it's a fairly simple 4-fold design of Maghrebi origin. It's likely on Tiling Search (caution! days can be lost in that site), or drawn somewhat badly in Bourgoin. If you do Facebook, someone at Broug Ateliers For Islamic Geometrical Design (Eric Broug's group) will likely know.

It's very easy to construct, and lends itself well to a hydraulic tile design. Definitely predates modernism.
posted by scruss at 10:22 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]

I will indeed be spending time with both the Bourgoin and that database link - very much what I was looking for, thank you!

In my browsing I'm not coming across many square-based octagrams, which is the basic scheme this tile seems based on (circle-based octagrams seem much more prevalent, and the isotoxal one on wikipedia doesn't carry much context at all) - but the process by which you get the overlayed static and dynamic four-point stars is indeed very easy, as you say, and "organic" (as nicely layed out in this geometric design tutorial), which makes me think of a possible archaic origin, too.

The element that seems random to the pattern are the two small central triangles, that I don't see springing from that same process...

(Though I stay well away from FB, this warrants an exception, methinks. If something turns up, I'll be sure to update.)
posted by progosk at 11:01 AM on March 4

Since a square is a construction from a circle, this is a circle-based template. The trick to these patterns is working out the construction geometry: it takes time to develop an eye for it, and sometimes you don't see it, or see a more complex one that ends up with the same result. In this case, it's an 8 pointed star constructed on a square from wedges made from the midpoint of a side to an opposite corner back to the midpoint of the side originally adjacent. The isotaxal example from Wikipedia uses strapwork to confuse the eye, but it's the same construction.

The two small kites (not triangles) in the figure are very easily constructed. I ran up the tile in Inkscape, and put the construction lines above the design so you could see them: example.
posted by scruss at 1:05 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]

Ultimately circle-based yes, it's just square-bounded octagrams that I'm not coming across so readily as actually regular octagrams. (And: also just learned "kites", thanks!)

Your design scheme makes perfect sense of course, the lines in the tracing I did from a photo of the tile weren't doing the trick, but I see how the kites fit the plan quite neatly. (Waiting on word from the BAFIGD group, too, meantime.)
posted by progosk at 2:48 PM on March 4

You may be using the wrong search term: I have never heard them being called octagrams before. Fourfold symmetry is the more common term. Bounded by squares are extremely common, such as the “breath of the Compassionate” motif, tiles in the Great Mosques of Cordoba and Kairouan, and many more.

I can't recommend Eric Broug's book Islamic Geometric Patterns highly enough. It's all about manual rule-and-compass construction which is the best way of getting started. (I'd warn against any of Keith Critchlow's books, as the language is a wee bit hunh? for something that is constructional geometry.)
posted by scruss at 3:28 PM on March 4

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