Famous Mosaics—Islamic Mosques of Iran

This summer the Tile Park is taking the show on the road! We’re paying a virtual visit to the most famous mosaics of the world… from China to Spain to the US… tile parks, record-breaking installations, ancient murals, points of interest and so much more. Join us!

The Islamic mosques in Iran are out-of-this-world gorgeous. Dating back to the 1400s, these medieval mosaics are as impressive as they are mind-boggling in their intricacy.

Everywhere you look, it seems every surface is covered in mosaic, the designs as varied as the surfaces themselves. And here’s something very interesting: Turns out medieval Islamic mosaics and architecture were produced using geometry that was not understood by Western minds until the early 1970s when English mathematician Roger Penrose introduced his famous “Penrose” tiling system.

So truly, to say it’s mind-boggling isn’t much of a stretch! It’s not even something we were aware of, until relatively recently.

The Arabesque patterns that pre-date the Penrose tiling patterns are called “girih,” and they are universal throughout the architecture of the region. Touring on foot or even just reading about places online, it doesn’t take long before you start seeing familiar patterns in mosques, and on public buildings, private homes, and on murals in every part of the Middle East.

By 1453, architects began designing mosaics and structures with “quasicrystalline” girih patterns… meaning that they never repeat, but are perfectly symmetrical… like this example in the Darb-i Imam shrine in Iran. (Foto shrine)

One great reason to travel and learn about other cultures is to bump into these amazing facts that remind us there’s always another perspective. Even our understanding of mathematics—a universal language without variations, dialects, or different answers—can shift. It can find new depths. Not until 45 or so years ago were we in the West even aware of these types of patterns. Yet halfway around the world, they’ve been ingrained in their every day existence for centuries.

It’s absolutely incredible.

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