ISLAMIC GEOMETRIC ORNAMENTS IN ISTANBUL

MIROSLAW MAJEWSKI

I SLAMIC G EOMETRIC O RNAMENTS IN I STANBUL
Miroslaw Majewski New York Institute of Technology College of Arts & Sciences Abu Dhabi campus United Arab Emirates

Copyright text, photographs and drawings © 2011 Miroslaw Majewski All photographs by the author unless otherwise stated

Cover photograph - Istanbul, a sophisticated geometric ornament on the Minbar in the Shehzade Mosque Photo by Miroslaw Majewski

I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO ALL THE LITTLE CREATURES IN MY FAMILY, TO LIDIA, MARTYNA, MARCIN, TYTUS, SULIMIR, ALICJA AND MARIANNA

Three ornaments out of many investigated in this book .

............................. 115 A few hints on using Sketchpad in creating geometric ornaments ...............................................................................................................36 On some odd sided regular polygons . 20 Regular polygons ......................................................................................................................................48 Walk 2: The Great Hagia Sophia ........................................................................................................................................... 115 Custom tools in Sketchpad ..... 118 Literature ..................33 Construction of a hexadecagon inscribed in a circle ................................................................. 109 Appendix: Sketchpad and geometric ornament design ..................................................................................................................................................................................................... 120 (Table of contents)|1 ...32 Construction of a regular octagon with a given side ......................................................................................29 Construction of a regular hexagon inscribed in a circle ...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................40 In the labyrinth of grids and stars ................................................................... 8 Where is mathematics? ...................................................................................... 48 Walk 1: The Sultan Ahmed Mosque ....28 Construction of a regular hexagon from a segment ........................34 Construction of a regular pentagon inscribed in a circle ................................................................................. 41 Construction of a double star ornament .. 13 A simple example.........37 Construction of a regular heptagon .................. T ABLE OF CONTENTS Preface ..............................37 Construction of a regular enneagon ........................................................................................ 3 Introduction ...........................................................................32 Construction of a square with a given side ....................................30 On a square.70 Walk 4: The tomb of Mahmut Paşa ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................27 Construction of an equilateral triangle from a segment ...................33 On a regular pentagon and a regular decagon ....................................35 Construction of a regular decagon inscribed in a circle ...................63 Walk 3: The Şehzade Mosque or the Prince’s Mosque .........................................29 Construction of a regular dodecagon inscribed in a circle ......................................................................38 Construction of a regular hendecagon inscribed in a circle ............................................................................................... 25 On an equilateral triangle..................................................45 A tour through Istanbul ............... 120 Internet Resources ........................................90 Where to go from here? ...........................................28 Construction of an equilateral triangle inscribed in a circle.............85 Walk 5: Some hidden treasures .......................................................32 Construction of a square inscribed in a circle ..... 5 A glimpse into the past .......................................................... regular hexagon and regular dodecagon ......... an octagon and hexadecagon............................................................................

Three ornaments out of many investigated in this book. 2|Islamic Geometric Ornaments in Istanbul .

Bogumiła Klemp-Dyczek. P REFACE Setting the goal – Islamic ornaments are one of the greatest achievements of ancient geometers. A computer program. In a few examples a computer graphics program will be used to add some finishing touches to our work.g. I will concentrate on one computer program only – The Geometer’s Sketchpad. Spain. While creating them we can learn a number of important topics in geometry. division of angles and segments into a given number of parts. in particular. Finally. explore ways how they can be constructed. and North Africa. constructions of figures circumscribed or inscribed in a circle. In literature there is quite a lot of talk about cosmological aspects of Islamic geometric ornaments. in the appendix of this book I will show how a computer program for geometry can be used to construct Islamic geometric ornaments. transformations of figures. Many of these ornaments can be created using very precise geometric constructions. and a number of other topics. Sammein Gündüz. Scott Steketee. Kamal Al-Achrafi. and still are. Thank you – I would like to express my gratitude to the many people who have helped me to write this book. Among those that must be especially mentioned are my friends Linda Graham. In the first part we refresh some important facts of the history of Islam and Islamic art. Turkey. a touch of symmetry groups. will be used to construct these grids as well as complete ornaments. and many others. e. India. artisans and craftsmen in the Middle East. We will concentrate mostly on the geometry of Islamic geometric ornaments. were constructed. and we will stay in Istanbul. constructions of regular polygons. and a few other places. and furniture. Erol Karakirk. In the second part we will revise our knowledge of geometric constructions. Organization – There are four major parts in this book. Many of the examples presented in this book have a significant cognitive value. Hagia Sophia. I will be your guide and we will walk together through some of my favorite places in this ancient city. We will walk through the famous Blue Mosque. Steven Rasmussen. However. books. In this book we will explore selected geometric ornaments from Istanbul. frequently used. is a place where such ornaments were. The Geometer’s Sketchpad. In this book we will not explore this area. We will analyze the structure of these ornaments and show how grids used to draw these ornaments. Şehzade Mosque. and sometimes even tested some of my constructions. Istanbul. The third part of this book can be considered as a mathematical tour through some places in Istanbul. These ornaments are frequently used to decorate secular and civil buildings. (Preface)|3 . encouraged my efforts..

finally if you do not belong to any of these groups just have a little pleasure seeing something that many people love so much. Mirek Majewski. I invite you to join me on this mathematical tour through Istanbul. This is a book on mathematics and art. or your mathematical skills are not first rate – you do not need to worry. if you are a teacher of mathematics this book will give you some ideas for your classroom. Therefore if you are not a mathematician. there is no heavy mathematics in this book. Spring-Summer. My intention was to show how the two eternal beauties. mathematics and art. if you are a student you can learn that mathematics can be found around you even in the most unexpected places. 2011.For whom is this book? You probably wonder if this is really a book for you? Well. I didn’t have any particular audience in my mind when I started this project. can interact and give us something that is admired by millions of people in our world. if you are an artist then certainly you can use this book as a source of inspiration for your works. 4|Islamic Geometric Ornaments in Istanbul . Abu Dhabi – Istanbul.

One day I found. I knew that one day I would have to sit and put. in architecture and art for years. in a local bookshop a book on Islamic ornaments by Keith Critchlow (see [4]). blue tailings in the passage around the mosque. Hundreds of drawings and geometric constructions. and taking thousands of photographs of mosques and hundreds of other places. and geometric ornaments with 5 fold symmetry were for me a completely new experience in Islamic art. developed using an excellent computer program The Geometer’s Sketchpad. we still can find wonderful decorations that are definitely some of the best examples of Islamic ornaments one can find in our modern world. but then it was not the right time. in writing. always had something to do with mathematics and art. A more complete book about geometry of Islamic ornaments will probably have to wait a while. the topic is huge and I probably I will never be able to cover all major examples. started filling up my desk and a number of folders. Most of my works with Maple. Abu Dhabi. I decided to concentrate on selected examples from Istanbul and see how much I can tell about them. and this was the moment when I started looking at Islamic ornaments. and later with Mathematica. Therefore. A significant milestone in my discovery path in Islamic art was my trip to Turkey. When I first time came to the Middle East I was stunned with the amount of geometric forms and ornaments present here. MuPAD. as geometric constructions. I NTRODUCTION “Everything is arranged according to Number”. However. in particular geometry.Plato (429–347 B. is the place where I have spent more than ten years. (Introduction)|5 .) I have been interested in applications of mathematics. Although it is a very modern and extremely fast developing city. I started analyzing each example that I was able to find on Abu Dhabi streets. The next milestone in my discovery of Islamic art was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque built in Abu Dhabi in 2007. This was my first rendezvous with Islamic Art. and ornaments in general. Since my first days in the Emirates I started collecting books and articles on Islamic art. After visiting the magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque on the Third Hill in Istanbul I knew that I was ready to start writing my book on geometric ornaments in Islamic art. in the United Arab Emirates. and topics related to the geometric ornaments in Islamic art.C. all my adventures with Islamic art. The beautiful shape of its domes.

The GeoGebra software is free and it can be downloaded from the the web site http://www. all constructions presented in this book will be developed using the Sketchpad specific environment and tools. gothic windows. The mosque has been opened for worship since Eid Al Adha December 2007. Therefore. kaleidoscopic images. who is also buried next to the mosque (outer right side). A few of them are available. I have been using it for years for modeling Chinese lattices. in short Sketchpad1.keypress. One can use The Geometer’s Sketchpad. Newer versions of GeoGebra contain also a 3D geometry module (version 5.Fig. this work can only be used once. An evaluation version of the program can be downloaded from http://www. currently in early beta stage) and a Computer Algebra System (starting from version 4). However.org/cms/ 1 6|Islamic Geometric Ornaments in Istanbul . The Geometer’s Sketchpad is a commercial product developed by KCP Technologies. 1 The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Arabic: ‫ـﺪ اﻟﺸــــﻴﺦ ﻣﺴﺠﺪ‬ ‫ )زاﻳــ‬in Abu Dhabi is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the third largest mosque in the world. My first choice was The Geometer’s Sketchpad. However. and one has to choose the tool that is the most suitable for him. Cabri or Cindrella. Such drawings cannot be reused and every time when we start the same or similar ornament we have to draw it from scratch. GeoGebra. most of my constructions can be created in a few other geometry programs.geogebra. and fractals. It contains a module for 2D geometry. It is named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.com/Sketchpad 2 GeoGebra is an impressive software for teaching mathematics. the founder and the first President of the United Arab Emirates. Such constructions can be developed by drawing them by hand. A very good choice can be GeoGebra2 where the number of tools is larger than in Sketchpad and the functionality is very similar. Therefore. I decided to use a computer program for plane geometry. In this book I am going to show a number of geometric constructions of Islamic ornaments.

finishing them with crayons and enjoying our work framed and hung on the wall. Finally I have to mention an important matter. if you have time and appropriate skills please do not ignore the traditional way of developing geometric ornaments. there is no greater pleasure than developing these constructions by hand on large sheets of paper. I present here my own point of view – it is how a person educated in geometry with experience in various forms of computer graphics sees them. However. Therefore. Constructions of Islamic geometric ornaments presented in this book are not exactly the same as you can find in many other books on Islamic art.Constructions done with the help of a computer program can make our work much easier and store it ready for reusing many times later. (Introduction)|7 .

In Islamic art there are no human or animal representations in any form. This is what was missing in the Byzantine and Roman Christian Churches and what brought so much turmoil3 in Europe. 3 8|Islamic Geometric Ornaments in Istanbul . Its divine nature can be only experienced through the divine world. Therefore. At the same time in the art of any Islamic society there are portraits of sultans. These are the two sentences that summarize all what we would say about origins of Islam and Islamic art. there are no images that could represent it. sometimes even plants 4 . Its roots are in the Old Testament. Therefore. The Islamic rejection of idolatry has quite different reasons than in the Christian Church. This belief forces a purity of the human-divine connection. many ornaments in Islamic art can be extended over the whole plane. A GLIMPSE INTO THE PAST “Nothing is born in a vacuum” and “everything has its own reasons”. Up to his time Mecca was an important center of pagan pilgrimage. quite often Islamic artists tend to avoid producing ornaments with central or focal points instead they utilize abstract patterns giving an impression of infinity. and religious things. and many religious things. Iconoclasm has generally been motivated by a literal interpretation of the Ten Commandments. This opens a wide path to geometric designs and abstraction in decoration of mosques. Geometric designs are free of any earthly meaning. According to Islam an individual has direct connection to God. books. Moreover. and average people. By Islamic art we mean art used to decorate mosques. Another important belief is that the Creator is beyond any representation. which forbid the making and worshipping of icons. Therefore. Let us have a glimpse in the past. As a consequence of these beliefs all Islamic art tends to create things that do not resemble any earthly subjects – humans. In his first year as a religious leader. emperors. Very famous examples of such art are Persian or Moguls’ miniatures. they can easily get across some aura of spirituality without touching any religious feelings. Quran. In Europe there were a few waves of so called iconoclasm. This approach. From the very beginning the mission of Islam was revival and purification of the religion of Abraham. Islam in many aspects is a continuation of earlier Judeo-Christian tradition. Prophet Mohammed adopted strict monotheistic credo and consequently purified humans’ beliefs of this period. There are known cases where a number of icons and other religious symbols were removed from churches and destroyed. 4 We have to make a very clear distinction between Islamic art and the art of an Islamic society. as an integral part of Islam beliefs. their families. in Mecca only were 360 idols destroyed. animals. makes iconoclasm a default principle. in Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy and science. Therefore any images of God are pure delusion and are useless.

has its expression in geometric symmetry of Islamic art. or in Syria. Themis. However. Images of Paradise gave a beginning to a number of artistic creations – panels with floral motives. During the Sunni revival (XII century). which began in Baghdad. is very consistent in its style. This creates an esthetic quality that is famous all over the world. For example. books as a decoration. Islamic art created in Spain is very similar. geometric and abstract vegetal elements that can be seen today everywhere in Islamic art. floral decorations of mosques and floral decorations of books. Sassanian Persia. in particular cosmic symmetry. praying mats. We can find them on carpets. “Heaven and Earth”. A very interesting exception in Islamic art are images of Paradise. Probably one of the reasons for it is the connection with the concept of balance or equilibrium on many levels.One of the remarkable features of Islamic art is symmetry. etc. This is probably due to the same system of beliefs and strong principles across all Muslim nations. It is interesting to notice that Islamic art. although it was created in a vast area. This can also be seen in many places in Istanbul. was always represented with scales. Syro-Roman. classical or even oriental. or often identical with Islamic art created in Morocco. Finally. the classic style of the Islamic ornament started crystallizing. At the same time we can find in Islamic art very strong influences of earlier or neighboring cultures – Christian Byzantine. perfected and divine. as a symbol of equilibrium. In ancient Greece the goddess of law. in many countries and by many nations. in Islamic art symmetry became the main principle and reached an enormous quality. Floral tailings on walls of mosques have their roots in idealized images of Paradise. “good work and misdeeds”. in order to get back to the main theme of this book let me mention three main forms of the Islamic decorative elements. on mosque walls and in many other places. It is interesting to notice that symmetry has its roots much deeper in the past. The three main forms are calligraphy. We know that many other cultures used symmetry to some degree. In Islamic sources we can quite often find many forms of equilibrium and harmony mentioned – “the sun and the moon”. So called “Gardens of Eden” are frequently represented in Islamic art and architecture. (A glimpse into the past)|9 . The notion of symmetry. were an important religious symbol in ancient Egypt. This is usually an idealized garden. geometric ornaments and arabesque. It uses distinctive epigraphic. the scales.

Many styles of writing were created over centuries. Geometric constructions. It conveys the word of God revealed in the Quran to the believers. The meaning of the text is “Abu Bakr Al Siddiq. It combines quite strong geometric discipline with a dynamic rhythm. Many Islamic geometric ornaments can be so complex that quite often for decades they were unsolved puzzles even for contemporary mathematicians. Its design is a real challenge for the craftsman who wants to create it. The calligraphy is considered as the most noble of the arts. for modern geometry – so called transformation geometry. They do not have any earthly meaning. In fact. Islamic geometric ornaments are quite important objects for contemporary mathematics and. 10 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l . These ornaments discovered in Iran and in Samarkand have strong connection with the recently invented Penrose tailing system – the system of tailings investigated by Sir Roger Penrose in the 1970s. 2 Calligraphy conveys the word of God revealed in the Quran to the believers. The photograph shows calligraphy on the wall inside of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. and very strict mathematical rigor. Fig. 3 Very complex geometric ornament in Byzantine Patriarchate in Istanbul.Fig. may God be pleased with him”. Geometric ornaments. convey some aura of spirituality and connection with the other world. Calligraphy can also be seen as a replacement of sacred images. grant the craftsmen opportunity to demonstrate the highest possible skills. the main theme of this book. in different places and different periods. One of such examples are so called decagonal Islamic ornaments. in particular. Translation by Dr Kamal Al-Achrafi.

woodwork. 4 Dodecagonal ornament in the Iwan of the Darb-e Imam mosque near Esfahan’s Great Mosque Arabesque.Fig. The center is formed by an octagonal star pattern with rounded edges. We can easily notice here an eight fold rotational symmetry and a number floral patterns combined with some rounded decagonal shapes. quite often we can see calligraphy combined with multiple reflections. is a form of Islamic ornament where floral elements are organized into a geometric form. Fig. Usually strong geometric principles are behind an arabesque design. In this book we will concentrate on Islamic geometric ornaments. However. For example. ivory carving. carpets and textiles. or vegetal arabesque. On some occasions we can also see a combination of two or more of the above mentioned forms. or a geometric ornament combined with some arabesque pattern. We can find them in many places including mosques. 5 Arabesque on the ceiling of one of the small domes of the Sokullu Sehit Mehmet Pasa mosque in Istanbul. from time to time we may see other forms of decoration. ceramics. ( A g l i m p s e i n t o t h e p a s t ) | 11 .

12 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l . From time to time we will use also the word “pattern” for a part of a geometric ornament or pattern that may not be geometric at all. Throughout this book we will talk exclusively about Islamic geometric ornaments. Later we will be seeing quite frequently this specific star in very complex geometric ornaments. Therefore without any confusion we can simplify our language and use terms “geometric ornament” or simply “ornament” as a convenient replacements for the full name “Islamic geometric ornament”.Fig. in the Cemberlitas district. 6 The photograph shows an interesting combination of a geometric ornament with arabesque in a cemetery in Istanbul.

and this way cover a bigger area of the plane. Fig. A SIMPLE EXAMPLE Before we start a more systematic review of geometric constructions and later geometric ornaments in Istanbul. rotations about a point. We show it in the next figure. We will choose the simplest one based on a rectangular grid described by Hankin in1925 (see [9. We need only a small portion of it. The part of the ornament that is sufficient to create the whole ornament is called a repeat unit or a fundamental motif. translations about a vector. Depending on our point of view the concept of repeat unit can be slightly different. 11]). An orthodox mathematician would probably ask about the smallest region that can be used to create the whole ornament using the mentioned transformations. 10. Let us examine a simple ornament that can be seen in Istanbul in many places. In fact we do not need to cover the whole photograph. After creating the enclosed in a rectangle fragment of the ornament we can use it to create a larger part of the ornament. Majewski There are many methods of reconstructing this ornament. that means by different repeat units. 11 A simple star ornament that can be seen on the floor in one of the entries to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul Photo M. let us look at a very simple example and see what we can find there. Most of the ornaments can be created from a repeat unit using geometric transformations: reflections about some lines. and compositions of these transformations. like the one shown in the next figure. in particular in hotels or mosques. The same geometric ornament can be created using different its parts. We will have to use reflections about its edges. Let us take a fragment of the above photograph and draw on it a rectangular grid. An artist or a craftsman would probably choose the region that is the most convenient to control – a rectangle or another figure that will be easy to use. 20 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l .

By connecting points A. The angles between diagonal lines are 60°. 12 11One of the possible grids that can be used to reproduce the ornament from the entrance to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. The result of this task is shown in the following figure. D and E we will obtain a rectangle with required proportions. You will get a new point C. B. and radii equal to AC. The rectangle obtained this way can be replicated to the right and down using the reflection about its edges. One of the points of intersections of these two circles we mark as D.Fig. Each cell is a rectangle with the short side equal to a . Let us start by constructing a rectangular grid similar to the one in the figure 12. Start by drawing a vertical segment AB as well as a line passing through points A and B. contains 3x9 rectangular cells. Fig. Now draw two large circles with centers in A and C. The repeat unit (here enclosed in the rectangle with rounded corners). Finally construct a line passing through D and parallel to the segment AB. or remove if we do our construction by hand on a piece of paper. and another line through A and parallel to BD. and long side equal to b = a 3 . ( A s i m p l e e x a m p l e ) | 21 . Draw a circle with radius AB and center in B. C B A D E Before proceeding to the next step we will have to hide if we use a computer program. 13 Construction of a cell for the grid that we will use to create the ornament from the floor in Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Note – the proportion a : b = 1 : 3 is one of the most frequent proportions of the repeat unit for Islamic geometric ornaments. all unnecessary lines and circles leaving on the screen the rectangle and its vertices. The same is valid for the repeat unit. if a is the length of the short side and b is the length of the long side then a : b = 1 : 3 . Construction of a single cell is shown in figure 13. We will not need them anymore. We can also hide all labels.

The final result is shown in figure 16. Then the whole triplet of rectangles was replicated the same way down 8 times. B A D E In the next few steps we will create the repeat unit using the rectangular grid we created just a moment ago. put it under the whole ornament and hide all unnecessary elements. In one of the next chapters we will talk more about the particular tasks that we have to do in a computer program in order to get a good design. square root of 3. Then we will hide all gridlines leaving only selected segments on the edge in order to mark mirrors for further reflections of the repeat unit. Finally. 14 The grid for the repeat unit of the ornament. and (b) the repeat unit – all unnecessary elements are hidden. The dashed segments were left in order to mark mirrors of reflection while developing the final ornament. You should hide these segments at the end of the construction of the whole design.Fig. 22 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l (b) . Fig. grids. 15 Last two steps in creating the repeat unit: (a) the grid and the ornament of the repeat unit. (a) Now we have everything ready to finish our ornament. Then the diagonal segments were created starting from the point B. Comment – in reality we do not need all diagonal segments in this grid. while Islamic ornaments use rectangular square root of 2. Rectangle ABDE was replicated two times to the right using mirror reflection about its right edge. We created all diagonal segments in order to emphasize the whole structure of the ornament. Now. A rectangular grid with horizontal and vertical lines can be enough to recreate many Islamic ornaments as well as Chinese lattices. The only difference is that Chinese lattices are mostly based on a square grid. we will have to find a good marble texture. In order to create our ornament we need only selected points of intersection of the horizontal and vertical segments. let’s have a look at the sequence of images that we have to create on the way from the rectangular grid to the final ornament. The repeat unit can be reflected as many times as we wish to the right and below in order to create a larger area of the ornament. etc.

159. Fig. 173. Finally one can think how this ornament can be further modified. 127 Gray: 179. and ruler can be quite different than developing them with the help of a computer program. paper. Each method has some advantages and disadvantages.Fig. For example in some places in Istanbul a different color of the marble was used to create an identical or a similar ornament. 21 Dusty yellow: 241. 140. 56. Note: Designing geometric ornaments by hand using pencil. 16 The final construction of the ornament from the floor at one of the entries to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul. RGB values of colors used here are as follows: Dark red: 167. compass. The marble texture was created using a computer generated image of gray marble. 5 Dusty orange: 203. ( A s i m p l e e x a m p l e ) | 23 . In some other places the hexagon shape was additionally filled with a more detailed geometric ornament. 17 The ornament from the entrance to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul – this time the image was created using tiles with colors that mimic one of the large tiled panels on the wall of Hagia Irene (near the Topkapi Palace). 203. In some other places stars in the ornament were filled with a different color of stone and sometimes a metal. I have also seen the same ornament where all polygons were filled with a beautiful floral arabesque. This ornament was quite often developed using wood or ceramic tiles.

we do not need to create this figure again and again. unless we will find a way to develop some templates. An ornament created with a computer program can be used in further standard geometric transformations – reflections. However. While developing an ornament by hand we have to develop many things again and again. we still may have problems with sizes of constructions in such templates. While developing a construction on a paper the task of hiding an object means taking an eraser and removing it factually from the picture. or a tool. Any geometry program offers a number of shortcuts and convenient tools. and then we can pierce small holes in the vertices of the polygon and in the center. 24 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l .With a computer program we can develop a geometric construction and save it for later use in a form of a template file. and translations. They can have this artistic touch that makes them looking completely different from the “iron and glass” look of computer creations. For the same reason it is extremely easy to create multiple versions of an ornament. and use it whenever this particular thing is needed. Such template can be used every time when we need a regular polygon of this type. For example objects can be hidden or displayed. rotations. Therefore. On the other hand. the images of geometric ornaments created using traditional techniques on a paper can be any size and color. For example. a construction of a regular polygon can be done on a paper. every time when we create an ornament based on a complex geometric figure.

we can start exploring Islamic geometric ornaments in Istanbul. 48 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l . if you still are not tired. It is also my favorite place. W ALK 1: T HE S ULTAN A HMED M OSQUE The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the treasures of Istanbul. In the evening. We will start from the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. 47 The Sultan Ahmed mosque is one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture. Fig. I can spend many hours in this Mosque and every time I am there I discover something new. I will take a role of a mathematical guide through some of my favorite places in this wonderful city. you can take a pen and construct some the things that we have seen on our walks. the so called Blue Mosque. Now equipped with all this information. Sultan Ahmed I is buried in a mausoleum right outside the walls of the famous mosque. in Istanbul. The neighborhood in Istanbul around the mosque is today called Sultanahmet. It is probably the most frequently visited mosque in Turkey. A TOUR THROUGH I STANBUL In earlier chapters we gathered some general knowledge about Islamic geometric ornaments. I invite you to walk with me and see these places the way I see them.

We have already explored one of these ornaments in the first example in this book. This is the only mosque in the world with six minarets. etc. However. arcs. Construction of this ornament is so simple. A few of them can be found in this mosque. cones. during the rule of Sultan Ahmed I (1590–1617). Fig. and many other things. A complete mystery for a westerner are the multiple muqarnas carved in white marble. It is called the Blue Mosque because of the color of the Iznik tiles used to decorate its interior. cubes. 48 The small hexagonal fountain in the middle of courtyard of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque Here we see a very simple geometric ornament.The Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 by the Ottoman architect Sedefkar Mehmet Agha. all these 3D objects are beyond the scope of this book. In the next figure I show what it looks like after creating it on paper or a computer screen. Another. cylinders. Its shape and the shapes of the domes and minarets can be modeled using many mathematical objects: spheres. Its design is based on the standing opposite to it the building of Hagia Sophia (The Church of Holy Wisdom). ( A t o u r t h r o u g h I s t a n b u l ) | 49 . rather simple geometric ornament a visitor can see is on a small hexagonal fountain in the middle of courtyard. The Blue Mosque is the last great mosque of the classical period of Ottoman architecture. We will concentrate only on geometric ornaments. that we can skip it or treat it as an evening exercise after a long busy day. Its architecture is exceptional in many ways. For a mathematician this mosque is particularly very interesting. We could also discuss proportions of the building or its parts. their location.

Then using reflections about sides of the triangle create the whole ornament. This one is not an exception. While creating this ornament. walls covered with blue tiles and sophisticated arabesques. In most of the mosques in Istanbul a minbar is the place where we can find some interesting geometric ornaments. 50 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l . I used a different method – I created a rectangular repeat unit. let us enter the Blue Mosque. The first thing we see inside is an incredible space with huge columns. On both sides of the minbar there is a long strip of a geometric ornament along the balustrade. Just opposite the main entrance we can see the minbar. 49 The ornament from the fountain in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque It is very easy to create this ornament and there are many ways to do it.Fig. For example you can create an equilateral triangle. Can you find – how I did it? Now. and try to construct it? Fig. 50 The minbar in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque contains a lot of arabesque decorations and quite an intriguing geometric ornament along its balustrade. find the center of it and then connect the center with centers of each side. Let us have a closer look at it.

Without any special reason we will choose the second method. This will be our first subgrid. Draw line GL and mark point K.. Draw a circle with center in G and radius equal to GE (length of the side of the square). This way we will have much clearer understanding of what we are trying to do. The following images show steps of our construction. 51 A detail of the geometric ornament on the minbar. As we can see. Note: ∠LGB=60°. Fig.Fig. 52 Construction of the ornament on the minbar in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque STEP 1: Construction of the fist subgrid Create a square. C E D L H K F A G B ( A t o u r t h r o u g h I s t a n b u l ) | 51 . I suggest my readers to construct the repeat unit using the first method as an interesting exercise. Draw diagonals of the square as well as lines connecting centers of opposite sides. The two rounded squares show two different square tiles that can be used as a repeat unit to create the whole ornament. the repeat unit of the ornament can be created in a few ways. We start with a preparation step. find intersection point of it with the right side of the square (point L). One of them could be to create the repeat unit as a square with the circled star ornament in the middle (rectangle 1). Another way could be to create a square determined by the vertical bars going through the whole ornament (rectangle 2). and before going to the actual construction we will hide all unnecessary elements. This way on the sides of the square we will have centers of four circles and inside the square there will be four halves of a circle with half of a star in each of them. mark the center of each side.

Create 12 small circles – 4 in the middle and 8 close to the edge of the square. Circles of the new subgrid are marked here using a thin solid line. The two remaining circles with centers E and H we draw using the points of intersection of the diagonal lines with the two existing circles. but I will leave them in order not to confuse my readers. 52 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l . STEP 4: Construction of the third subgrid (small circles) In order to create the remaining elements of the repeat unit we need another subgrid of circles.STEP 2: Construction of the second subgrid (circular) Before starting this step hide all unnecessary elements leaving only first subgrid. C E D H K F A G B STEP 3: Use the existing points and the points of intersection of the four circles with diagonals of the square to draw a part of the ornament. Draw the first circle with center in G and passing through K. Now we are ready to finish the repeat unit. Some of the existing intersection points can be hidden at this stage. all points including and point K. Mark all points of intersection of the new subgrid of circles with the existing subgrids and part of the ornament created in the previous step. Draw another circle with center in F passing through K also.

The repeat unit is ready (below). 53 A geometric ornament created using the repeat unit constructed above. There are many window shutters and doors with interesting. This is a very interesting ornament as it can be modified and expanded into many more complex designs. Constructing some of them can be a real challenge.e. i. The same ornament can be found also in many other mosques in Turkey. ( A t o u r t h r o u g h I s t a n b u l ) | 53 .STEP 4: Draw the missing lines of the ornament. We find it in many older mosques here. Hide all points and the three subgrids: diagonals of the square. We will start with a carving that contains a relatively simple ornament. large circles and small circles. In order to create it we needed two circular subgrids. sometimes very complex. Later we will have another example where circular subgrids will be used. Fig. In the Sultan Ahmed mosque there are many other geometric ornaments. the lines shown inside of small circles. The ornament from the minbar in the Sultan Ahmed mosque is rather unusual. This ornament is very specific to Istanbul. geometric ornaments carved in the wood. Let us try to see how we can approach this task. Let us have a walk around the interior of the mosque. as well as in the Topkapi palace.

who after converting to Islam became the grand vizier under Mehmet the Conqueror. was a Byzantine aristocrat of Greek origin. In this chapter we will stop here for a short while to examine ornaments on the tomb of Mahmut Paşa. The Mahmut Paşa mosque was built in 1462.W ALK 4: T HE TOMB OF M AHMUT P AŞA Every time I visit Istanbul the Mahmut Paşa mosque is closed – no luck. 95 The tomb of Mahmut Paşa with Moorish style decorations ( A t o u r t h r o u g h I s t a n b u l ) | 85 . Here we can see two different geometric ornaments – one of them with a constellation of stars with eight and five arms. These ornaments are not terribly complicated. but every time I am there I see a neglected cemetery next to the mosque and an octagonal tomb of Mahmut Paşa with interesting Moorish style decorations with small tiles in blue. This was the first large mosque built inside of the city walls. Fig. Mahmut Paşa. I have no idea what we can find inside. green. but their colors are very different from anything that we have seen until now. He was fortunate to finish his own tomb in time. So. black. and another one with overlapping regular dodecagons. yellow and turquoise. In 1474 after a disastrous defeat in the Upper Euphrates region of Anatolia. Its founder. nine years after Istanbul was conquered by Ottomans. he was executed on the order of sultan.

96 The overlapping dodecagons ornament on the tomb of Mahmut Paşa The simplest way to develop this ornament is to create a rectangular repeat unit shown on the photograph.. Divide each side of each triangle into four equal parts. The repeat unit for the overlapping dodecagons ornament from the tomb of Mahmut Paşa A B E C F A B D The next figure shows one of the possible color versions of a complete ornament. E and C. Fig. fill spaces between thick lines with some color and create a larger ornament using such repeat unit. Finally use a thick line to draw the part of the ornament for the repeat unit. Like in one of the earliest examples we will have to start with the long side of the rectangle. etc. This is the second long edge of the repeat unit. 86 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l . 97 Construction of the overlapping dodecagons ornament from the tomb of Mahmut Paşa Start by drawing the segment AB. point F. Fig. On the tomb we find this ornament in two color versions: yellow and turquoise. points D. The following figures show selected steps of the construction. B. Then construct two equilateral triangles CDB and BCE. with AB and CF respectively as their height. you can clean all grids. points. Construct four regular dodecagons – each with the center in the corner of one of the triangles. and a vertex in ¼ of the triangle side. You should obtain a subgrid of four dodecagons.Let us first look at the overlapping dodecagons ornament. create two equilateral triangles with AB as a height of them and then develop a subgrid of dodecagons. In this construction we will be able to use the technique of two equilateral triangles with one common side that we used for the two ornaments in the Şehzade Mosque. Now. Connect the point C with the center of the segment BE.

Finally centers of circles are located on vertices of a square grid. Let us start our construction. here ABCD. 99 The second ornament from the Mahmut Paşa tomb We can easily see that the ornament can be outlined with the help of large touching circles. It contains large octagonal stars with smaller pentagonal stars between them.Fig. 98 A replica of the overlapping dodecagons ornament from the tomb of Mahmut Paşa The next ornament is a bit more challenging. The figure below shows how these stars are arranged on a square grid. The small circles are used to create small four corner stars with diamond shaped arms. D C A B Now. Fig. we know almost everything about this ornament. as well as smaller circles inscribed in the empty space between large circles. A square with corners located in centers of stars. ( A t o u r t h r o u g h I s t a n b u l ) | 87 . can be the most convenient repeat unit for this construction. The large stars are constructed on the base of octagons inscribed in large circles.

Draw only a quarter of each star – the part that falls inside the boundaries of the repeat unit. C D A B C D A B STEP 3: Construction of the pattern for the repeat unit This part is quite simple. tangent to the large circles. For each circle you should get two squares inscribed in it. add the small circles with centers in A and C respectively. STEP 2: Construction of the second subgrid For each of the octagons draw a subgrid of pairs of parallel. thin lines). This is our second subgrid. Draw diagonals of the square and two circles with centers in C and B respectively and radius equal half of the diagonal CB. For each of the octagons create a subgrid of lines connecting every second vertex (dashed lines). Construct two regular octagons with centers in C and B respectively. vertical and horizontal lines (solid. even if the subgrids are tempting you to do this.Fig. inscribed in circles. 100 Construction of the star ornament from the Mahmut Paşa tomb STEP 1: Construction of the first subgrid Draw a segment AB. and construct a square ABCD with AB as its base. Finally. You do not need to draw anything outside of the repeat unit. These lines are passing through points of intersection of the first subgrid and are parallel to the sides of one of the squares inscribed in each circle. C D A B 88 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l .

and remove all labels if you have them. In the next chapter we will look into a few places trying to discover what people passing would not normally notice at all. Now clean the maze of subgrids and circles. 101 The star ornament from the Mahmut Paşa tomb Although the original ornament on the Mahmut Paşa tomb is in a terrible state. Note.STEP 4: Filling the small circles Note each small circle contains a short fragment of a diagonal of the square. Find the center of each of these fragments. A B Below I show one of the possible versions of this ornament. However. ( A t o u r t h r o u g h I s t a n b u l ) | 89 . this ornament does not have any lines like we had in the previous example. C D A B The repeat unit for the star ornament from the Mahmut Paşa tomb Left – outlines of the pattern only Right – a ready repeat unit with fills. it can be found in different color versions. although it is not very popular. This is all. Fig. and then use them to draw a diamond like shape inside each small circle. The repeat unit should look like the one in the pictures below. this ornament. this ornament is one of the most crystal clear ornaments I have ever seen.

In this chapter we will discuss only a very few issues specific for creation of geometric ornaments. lines. this chapter is not intended to be a Sketchpad tutorial. ( A p p e n d i x : S k e t c h p a d a n d g e o m e t r i c o r n a m e n t d e s i g n ) | 115 . Therefore in this chapter we will look into Sketchpad as a construction tool for geometric ornaments and discuss a few things that are useful in this work. rotate. we still have an option to create it and then use it in our works. and Tool to create custom tools Sketchpad is a very simple computer program to work with plane geometry. and then we will use our construction to create a custom tool to create more pentagons. Info tool. The number of creation tools in Sketchpad is somewhat limited but still enough to proceed with even the most complex geometric constructions. C USTOM TOOLS IN S KETCHPAD Let us develop a simple tool to create a regular pentagon starting from a segment that will be the side of the pentagon. Therefore. circles and other objects used in elementary geometry (see fig. • • • • • • • • • Selection tools: select and move. I believe that some of my readers would like to try this approach and use Sketchpad in their explorations of geometric ornaments. we will take a closer look at the process of the creation of custom tools in Sketchpad. A1). In case if a tool is missing. There are a number of Sketchpad tutorials available on its web site and a very broad help system inside the program. ray or line Construct a polygon Label objects or write text Marker tool. We can draw there points. Fig. scale object (or the whole construction) Construct a point Construct a circle using two points – center of the circle and a point on its edge Construct a segment. segments. However. arcs. A1 Toolbox in The Geometer’s Sketchpad A number of tools are available in Sketchpad. Here are all of them listed from top to bottom. Finally we will explain how this tool can be used in current or in all our future works. Sketchpad is the tool I have been using for constructing all the ornaments in this book. A PPENDIX : S KETCHPAD AND GEOMETRIC ORNAMENT DESIGN As I said in the beginning. One can easily learn how to use the program completely on his or her own. First we will construct such pentagon.

Construct a bisector of the segment AB. and two lines perpendicular to AB in points A and B. With this selection on the screen open the tool to create customs tools (see fig. or segments should be selected. L and M. write there your preferred name for the new tool and a new custom tool will be created. This can be done by drawing two circles with centers in A and B respectively. M. one with center in J and another one with center in I. Now the new tool can be used as many times as you need it.Fig. lines. This time we obtained three additional points K. By connecting points of intersection of these two circles (points C and D) we create a line that is our bisector. and radius AB. You should obtain two new points on the line AB: J and I. M K E C L H J A G B I D 116 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l . These points are the remaining vertices of the pentagon. No other points. Construction of a regular pentagon STEP 1: Start by drawing a segment AB. B. as well as all segments connecting these points. E C H A G B D M K E C L H J A G B I D STEP 3: Creation of the tool This is the final step in creation of a tool to construct pentagons from a given segment. and radii AI and BJ respectively. K. STEP 2: In order to find other vertices of the pentagon we will need three more circles (the thick lines in the figure to the right). Use the new points I and J to draw two more circles. Select the points A. Draw a circle with a center in G and its radius equal to GE. By connecting them with segments we get the outline of the pentagon. Here A and B are the ending points of the segment and these two points will be important later while creating the pentagon tool. A1) and choose ‘Create New Tool’. Construct three more lines: line extending segment AB. and L. A2.

For example I used a few custom tools in order to develop the ornament from the Sultan Selim tomb. It saved me a lot of work. 224. 96. For example while creating a pentagon we used one of its future edges with two ending points. In fact. 72. A3 A simple construction created with our pentagon tool. stars based on polygons. Each of these constructions is a good opportunity to develop a number of useful custom tools that can be used later. where the center of the circle and one point on its edge can be the starting objects for the pentagon tool. then each new pentagon created with this tool will have the same colors and styles. we will get a number of unnecessary labels. While creating a custom tool it is important to decide what the starting object for the construction should be. although it is a slightly more complex than many other constructions of regular polygons in this book. In earlier chapters we developed constructions of some other regular polygons. and grids that can be used to create Islamic ornaments. Custom colors and point or line styles used while creating the tool will also be preserved. 197 Construction of the pentagon described here. RGB values of colors used here are as follows: Dark dusty blue: 87. The floral ornament as well as colors are similar to those that I have seen in one of the mosques in Istanbul. the edge is not very important. We can check in Sketchpad that all angles have the same value 108° and the total measure of all angles is 540°. medium size line. it is very accurate.COMMENT: Before creating a new tool it is worthwhile to hide labels of objects used in the tool. 67 Yellow: 255. One can also think about creating a pentagon inside a circle. The whole construction could be done starting from two points only. as we can easily notice. This means that if we created the pentagon tool using green. Otherwise every time while creating multiple instances of the pentagon. There are also known constructions of a pentagon based ( A p p e n d i x : S k e t c h p a d a n d g e o m e t r i c o r n a m e n t d e s i g n ) | 117 . and yellow points. 87 Light salmon (background): 255. 170. 104 Dusty red: 241. Fig.

If the polygon has an edge. uses 50% transparency for the fills. or circles with 100% opacity. Suppose we created our custom tool or tools. Sketchpad. the folder where I save all my Sketchpad files. a segment or two ending it points. then the edge is not transparent and in such a case its color is darker than the color of the fill. square or a segment. If a polygon touches the boundary of a repeat unit we should use framed polygons. Note also that graphics programs usually have better coloring tools than Sketchpad. This way I have access to all tools that I have created in the past. and regular polygons inscribed in a circle. show the area covered by two or more objects in a different color. We have already noticed that in Sketchpad. Then the Illustrator coloring palette was used to color all fills. we will be able to use any of these tools in our further works. Some popular graphics programs may introduce unexpected changes of colors to our transparent fills. if we wish to get a more sophisticated color it can be convenient to create the ornament in Sketchpad. or circles.e. Therefore in some situations it is convenient to use filled polygons. at the very bottom of the custom tool menu. polygons with an edge. The ornament shown in figure A3 was created in Sketchpad with completely random fills. This is very convenient – usually I use a large number of custom tools in my constructions. A good solution is to put all of them in a selected folder and ask Sketchpad to load custom tools on start. Each time the starting objects can be different. Otherwise after replicating the repeat unit we will find narrow gaps between some polygons. i. This is an especially unwanted effect if we use dark colors for fills. Transparency: Using polygons with edges brings another problem. we have an option ‘Choose Tool Folder’. Now we have to think how we can use them in some of our later works. If we point out where the folder for the tools is and save our files with custom tools in this folder. 118 | I s l a m i c G e o m e t r i c O r n a m e n t s i n I s t a n b u l . In this book we mainly used regular polygons created from a given edge. This way we can be sure that the fill will have the same color as its edge. In this last case the starting objects are the center of the circle and a point on its edge. Note also that transparent colors can get out of hand if we copy and paste our constructions in some graphics programs. Therefore. as a tool folder. copy it into a graphics program and apply a specific color scheme there. i. copied from the Sketchpad screen and pasted into Adobe Illustrator.on an existing hexagon. In my works I usually declare. A FEW HINTS ON USING S KETCHPAD IN CREATING GEOMETRIC ORNAMENTS Edges of fills: While constructing ornaments we frequently use filled polygons or circles.e. by default. This way overlapping and filled polygons.

The dimensions of the construction on the Sketchpad screen are not really important. However. With too many elements created in our notebook Sketchpad will work much slower. must recalculate locations of all elements if we move them on the screen or scale. If we only have a small amount of them then we need a few minutes to hide them all. etc. Sketchpad. Buttons to hide grids: While creating a complex ornament we use multiple grids. for example by doing multiple reflections or rotations of an ornament with construction points (ends of segments. At the same time. Therefore. like any other vector graphics program. like the marble ornament in our first example. ( A p p e n d i x : S k e t c h p a d a n d g e o m e t r i c o r n a m e n t d e s i g n ) | 119 . This is vector file format. This simply means that all constructed elements will be saved using their coordinates. if we have hundreds of such unnecessary elements we may never be able to finish the cleaning process. In such a case. If we are not sure how to proceed with the construction it can be useful to select each grid separately and create a button to hide and show the grid (Sketchpad menu: Edit > Action Button > Hide/Show). the file size depends only on the number of elements in our construction. Use multiple copies of your construction: I frequently have this situation that at some stage of my work I wish to try a few different options. One of them is hiding at the end of our work all these unnecessary points. if we use a bitmap. or vertices of polygons). parameters and equations. use different colors or different width of lines and compare both resulting images. then the bitmap will be embedded in the EMF file and the size of the file will also depend on the dimensions of the bitmap. Then we can face two problems. I create a copy of my work and apply changes to the copy. in a critical moment when two or more options are going to be tested. Multiple copies of our work can be created as separate files or in one file as multiple tabs (Sketchpad menu: File>Document Options>Add Page>Duplicate). the original construction is safe and later I can always return to it. sometimes edges. There is one more issue to consider. for example. However. Do not create unnecessary elements: While performing multiple transformations we often create a number of unnecessary elements.Saving graphics: In Sketchpad we can save our constructions as an EMF file (Microsoft Windows Enhanced Metafile).

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