Tessellation Tango

The finished mosaic mural.

Title: ‘Tessellation Tango’

Description: As the Primary Designer of this low-relief work, I later collaborated with Scott Frankenberger to fabricate, ship and install the work on the new forecourt face of the Math Science Research Institute building in Berkeley, California. Sir Roger Penrose was the special guest for the crowd of world scholars at the grand opening, for which we’d finished our 10-day installation just shortly before.

Medium: Handmade porcelain tiles (in only 2 rhomboid shapes) imprinted with numbers & odd number facts, broken commercial ceramic tile and protruding aluminum strips as a low-relief mosaic.

Year: I designed it in 2004, we made tiles in 2005 and installed them in 2006.

Dimensions: 5’ x  30’

This proposal (of two I submitted) was awarded the first place design prize in the MSRI competition from a field of national and some international entries.

The 30′ x 5′ design has 3 distinct areas:

  • A large area on the left side is based on a ‘3-D Cube’ pattern grid.
  • A small central transition area uses shapes from both patterns (but grids from neither)
  • A large area on the right side is based on a Penrose pattern grid
Close up of the two sections. The 3-D cube grid on the right & Penrose pattern on the left.

The 3-D Cube pattern

The gridded unit of positive metal lines and shapes creates a background grid, with larger negative space shapes made by removing adjacent grid units. Overlaid on (and in unison with) this background grid will be porcelain tiles, exposing the many interrelationships to be found within complex patterns. These color-glazed tiles highlight a myriad of pattern combinations made by connecting different units of the grid.

This clay tile area incorporates 2 different rhomboid shapes and three different ceramic glaze colors. Half to a third of these tiles were impressed with numerals and odd number facts (or relationships) for educational interest and additional texture.

The Central Area

The central area has more negative space and two similar but different ideas. One ‘cube’ of tiles from the 3-D cube pattern fits inside a raised metal hexagonal diagram extracted from that pattern. One cube from the Penrose pattern fits into a raised metal decagonal diagram extracted from the Penrose pattern.

The Penrose Pattern

This consists of a harder-to-imagine background base grid (created with positive shapes and raised metal lines), and more seemingly-irregular negative space shapes.

The immediate result is less of an organized appearance, but upon examination the Penrose pattern is discerned. Again overlaid on and in unison with this background, will be the glazed ceramic tiles, exposing even more interrelationships found within this complex pattern. The color tiles highlight the myriad of pattern combinations made by connecting different units of the Penrose grid. This clay tile area incorporates 2 different rhomboid shapes and three different main ceramic glaze colors, with 3 or 4 other glaze colors used as smaller highlights also. A third to half of these tiles will are also impressed with numerical information for additional visual texture and intellectual interest.

The tile and glaze colors are of a scheme chosen to work with the surrounding architecture and environment.

The tiles are roughly 6″ each. After all the handmade color tiles were put in place, the negative space was filled completely with broken bits of neutral tiles & grout.

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