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Saving Ancient Islamic Architectural Patterns With Computers and Code

Project Agama is creating technologically tricked-out versions of centuries-old tesselations as a resource for future designers

The non-figurative artistic tradition of Islamic decoration includes remarkable rhythmic patterns, interlacing geometric ornament and tendril-like arabesques. But these monuments to beauty are in danger of destruction from earthquakes, wars, and the ravages of time.

Enter the unusual trio behind Project Agama—two architects and a computer engineer —who travelled through Central Asia intending to not only capture the historical beauty of these patterns, but to mathematically recreate them through code. The group, which was profiled in Metropolis, is in the process of building an open source library of these historical geometric designs, creating a visual toolkit for contemporary architects. Accessed via an open source Grasshopper plug-in, the patterns can be used for future projects and designs.

The three friends -- Baris Yuksel, a senior engineer at Google; Lauren Connell, an architect at BIG; and Alexis Burson, an associate at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners -- received a travel grant from the Center for Architecture and began their experiment in September with a trip to Turkey and Central Asia.

Traveling through Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia, the team visited numerous sites and took thousands of photographs. Now back home in New York, Yuksel -- the coder -- is mathematically breaking apart each design and digitally recreating its proportions and angles.

The result is a set of digitally scalable patterns easily manipulated on the computer and available to anyone.

Turning Central Asia's Ancient, Mesmerizing Patterns into Code [Metropolis]

Project Agama [Website]