Complex Islamic Geometry

This video is a lesson by Eric Broug, animation by TED-Ed. Geometric pattern design is arguably the most recognizable form of Islamic art — it shows up everywhere, from mosques to government buildings to paper. While geometric art dates back to the ancient Greeks, most agree that this traditional form of Islamic geometric art originated in North Africa in the 9th century, showing up in simple patterns and designs in the Great Mosque of Kairoun in Tunisia. The patterns often appear to be complex yet can be produced with a simple ruler, pencil and a compass.

These patterns have since appeared in many formats, including ceramic, wood, stone, rugs, leather, stained glass and of course paper. Eric Broug, originally from the Netherlands and currently living in the United Kingdom, is one of the world’s leading experts in Islamic geometric pattern design. He received his Masters degree in the history of Islamic art and architecture from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He is the founder of Broug Ateliers for Islamic Architecture, Arts and Crafts in Yorkshire, which creates contemporary Islamic art. He trains others in the art and holds regular workshops globally.

He believes that geometry is a universal language, and Islamic geometric design resonates or speaks to people, regardless of age, background, etc. “I see this all the time in my workshops. People of course appreciate the beauty of Islamic geometric design, but it is also the ability they can develop to ‘read’ it, to understand it, that is enlightening. Why should someone learn it? It is good to make things with your hands. Nowadays, computers dominate so much of our output, it is good to sit at a table with a pair of compasses and a ruler and to create something . By drawing these patterns, you also connect with a design heritage, not just by looking at it but by making something.” Broug said.

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