If you walk into Fisher Fine Arts Library and head towards the side facing East, you’ll find a stunning collection of plasterwork used to restore the Alhambra, an architectural masterwork from the height of Islamic rule in Spain. Having visited the Alhambra just a few months ago, I was struck by the sheer scope of having to maintain the intricate patterns throughout the entire palace–and, of course, of having to build it in the first place.
One reason I was so impressed was the mathematical precision and invention displayed in this palace, which dates from the 13th century. Mathematicians have discovered 17 so-called “wallpaper groups”–in very simple terms, infinitely repeatable two-dimensional patterns formed by combinations of translations, rotations, and reflections–and proved around the turn of the 20th century that those 17 are the only ones to exist. And amazingly, most mathematicians agree that the Alhambra contains all of them–and the hyper-logical, natural beauty of these patterns has inspired generations of artists, including the likes of M.C. Escher. And luckily for Penn students, we can experience some of that here at Fisher Fine Arts Library.
You can read and see more at the link below: