Description of the Unit – Students will explore the centuries-old geometric patterns found in Islamic architecture. Students will use mathematical techniques as instructed in Eric Bourg’s marvelous book, Islamic Geometric Patterns, to re-create a variety of the patterns they have explored through their observations.
Activity statement – From fortresses to castles, mosques to tombs, beautifully intricate, geometrically dazzling patterns were a ubiquitous feature of Islamic architecture between 1000 – 1600 AD. These designs decorated ceilings, floors and walls, or objects ranging from tables to fountains. Obviously, Islamic architects created these designs without the use of modern instruments. Using a technique of drawing circles within lines, they were able to divide circles into twelve equal parts and interconnect designs. There are hundreds of these designs still visible in parts of the world that once were, or continue to be, part of Arabic rule.
Students will observe a variety of the most historically documented designs, discussing what colors, shapes and patterns they notice. They will examine the buildings on which they still exist, discussing the purpose for creating these designs, and the impact they think designs and colors such as these might have for the people living amongst them.
Students will contemplate how they imagine the designs could have been made before trying their hands at some of their own, thanks to the approachable steps outlined in Eric Bourg’s book, Islamic Geometric Patterns.
Goals – Students should…
- The historic and cultural context within which these designs exist.
- How a circle within a square, itself divided into four parts, can be used as the foundation for a multitude of patterns
- How construction lines support the final design
Be able to:
- Complete one finished geometric pattern
Objectives – Students will: Use basic geometry to create at least one Islamic-style geometric pattern.
Resources and materials –
- Exemplars of Islamic geometric patterns and the buildings they are found in
- Step-by-step instructions for at least seven different patterns ranging from easy to difficult (from Islamic Geometric Patterns by Eric Bourg)
- Bristol paper cut into 6”x6” squares
- Sharpies (both thick and thin)
- Colored markers
- When do these designs first emerge in Islamic architecture? What is their purpose? What parts of the world are these still seen?
- What kinds of shapes do you notice? What kinds of colors?
- What do you think it would feel like to live in a building filled with these designs, both as tiles and carvings?
- How do you imagine these designs being made?
- What is important for you to do and know in order to create one of these patterns?
- What are construction lines? Why would you use them?
- What role should color play in these patterns? Why?
Evaluation – Did students:
- Use correct terms and understanding to discuss the origins and use of Islamic geometric designs?
- Verbally reflect on ways to approach their designs?
- Did students employ mathematical approaches to create their patterns?
- Did students work carefully, creating a clean design?
- Did students use color to enhance the patterns in interesting ways?
- Student questions
- Group discussions
- Oral responses to essential questions
- Elaboration and risk-taking