Analysis of a geometric pattern from the Alhambra Palace


I haven’t posted on here for some time due to being immersed in studying and practicing geometry. One of the aspects I’ve found most rewarding and stimulating is the process of analysing and reconstructing a pattern. It’s done wonders for the development of my understanding of geometric proportions and pattern making.

Reconstructing this incredible pattern from the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain was the biggest challenge I’ve taken on yet. It took several hours of staring at the bookmark above, while drawing and redrawing until the proportions made themselves clear. The process of creating a construction guide has provided further insights.

The result seems to be proportionally correct but if anyone who has knowledge about Islamic pattern construction, or even better this pattern in particular, has any observations they would be most welcome.. please leave a comment. Equally if you find it a useful guide, please let me know.

Good luck!

A time-lapse video demonstrating the construction of this pattern using compass, ruler and drawing tools:

A step-by-step construction guide:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

24 Responses to “Analysis of a geometric pattern from the Alhambra Palace”

  1. david Fusco

    my best source for this geometry is Issam El-Said and Ayse Parman’s book ‘Geometric concepts in Islamic Art’ – thanks for inspiring me to dig it out again!
    Thank you for all the help you have given, and putting up with the people who needed it…. including me! DF

    • ambigraph

      Thanks for the comment David.. glad you found it useful! (btw, is that the DF I know?)

  2. dawn

    Wow!! I have been following your amazing work on Instagram, and only now saw you have a blog. SO exciting!!

    • ambigraph

      Thanks for the support Dawn! I hope to make my site and blog more geometrically inclined in the near future so keep following..

  3. brandon

    I am sincerely grateful for the wisdom you have been kind enough to share. thank you!

  4. Marsha

    Hello. My first visit! Geometric designs are amazing. has excellent tutorials on Another great resource for information and history of Islamic Geometric Patterns is Eric Brough’s book. I love this quote “Praise the Infinite.” The Islamic patterns can be repeated to infinity with incredible shapes emerging. I’m sure it is a wonderful life-long study.

    • stella maris

      Por favor nombran libros donde los puedo conseguir en que parte Espero una respuesta…………Dentro de un tiempo viajare y si tengo los datos me seria mas facil Un cordial saludos

      • ambigraph

        Hi, I don’t read Spanish but I think you’re asking about books. I’d recommend Islamic Design by Daud Sutton and Arts and Crafts of the Islamic Lands by Khaled Azzam.

  5. Susan Dobrian

    Absolutely mesmerizing! Really beautiful and inspiring!
    Susan (from the Granada trip)

  6. Rebin

    Very nice and mind blowing pattern and thanks for make it livable. Do you think you will put this in PDF or hopefully soon we can see your book?

    • ambigraph

      Many thanks. No plans to make a PDF.. I have learnt a lot since I published this and would probably approach this pattern differently now, although I think this is still a worthwhile method. Thanks for the support!

  7. Mohamad

    Dear Ambigraph
    Very nice work, but I am sorry to say that the method for constructing the pattern is not correct; the result is a deformed shapes in the drawing. The four tips of the stars are not equal, this breaks one of the golden rules, every shape in the pattern must have at least one axis of symmetry. The key to this pattern is to make the four sides of the small petals equal. By the way, many patterns mentioned by Issam El-Said and Eric Brough are not correct. And the methods used to construct these patterns are complicated and often leads to deformed patterns.
    If you want to know more watch the videos on my youtube channel.

    • ambigraph

      Many thanks for your comment Mohamad. I am aware that this is an approximation that results in slightly distorted pentagrams. I created this analysis when I had only been exploring Islamic geometry for a few months. I have since studied with Daud Sutton who has explored 16-8 patterns extensively. He pointed out the approximation and showed me a reasonably simple ruler and compass method for the precise version of this pattern.

      You can see in the work I have been producing more recently, I try to achieve reflective symmetry in the pentagrams and understand that this is what results in balance in the design.

      I have seen your videos.. I especially like how they clarify the reasons why incorrect proportions harm the integrity of the designs. Thanks again.

  8. Arshad Baig

    Wonderful stuff – oddly enough I have just finished this very design in vector graphic format but I do not use geometry since I learnt quite some time ago what you and Mohamad has discussed above and besides I need these designs in digital format. I photograph the original design with a portrait lens (to minimise the distortion) then ‘trace’ them in vector graphic software and then manually correct any errors and blemishes which most original have since these designs can be centuries old – also a painstaking process but it recreates the original which you can also digitally ‘paint’ in with correct colours in a uniformed manner.
    Keep it up,
    Arshad Baig

    • ambigraph

      Many thanks for your comment. I would expect that tracing these patterns from source photos would lead to inconsistencies as the regular symmetry comes from following geometric principles and the understanding of these principles is an enriching practice. These are very easy to replicate using vector software. Best of luck with your work.

  9. Manuel Sánchez Fernández

    Gracias por este tutorial para una estrella floral de indice 16. Era un trabajo que estaba esperando que pudiera ver como se desarrolla el patrón, este es un trozo de un mosaico más grande que se encuentra en la Alhambra de Granada, en la Torre de Lindaraja. He visto los vídeos de Mahamad y sus puntualizaciones. Pero sigue siendo muy interesante ya que el patrón de mi diseño pasa por entender que las estrellas florales de indice 16 pasan por estar inscritas en una circunferencia de de x radio y la circunferencia de corte es 2/3 de la principal. Todo esto esta tratado en un libro difícil de conseguir por su poca difusión que se llama “TRAMAS GEOMÉTRICAS EN LA CERÁMICA DE LA ALHAMBRA.
    Gracias por su vídeo al que me llevo Samaria Mian.

    Thanks for this tutorial for a floral star of index 16. It was a job that I was hoping I could see as the pattern unfolds, this is a piece of a larger mosaic found in the Alhambra in Granada, in the Tower of Lindaraja .
    I have seen the Mahamad videos and their details. But it is still very interesting since the pattern of my design goes by to understand that floral stars of index 16 happen to be inscribed in a circumference of “x” radius and the circumference of cut is 2/3 of the main one. Obviously there is a symmetry.
    All this is treated in a book difficult to obtain because of its little diffusion that is called “GEOMETRIC TABLES IN THE CERAMICS OF ALHAMBRA.
    Thank you for your video that I took Samaria Mian.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>