Cairo Tiling‎ > ‎


Aside from the use of the tiling as a paving is its use in architecture, of which it also appears, thus giving further credence to its picturesque properties. Indeed, I am aware of three different instances, all likely independent of each other, on account of being in four continents, Americas (US); Europe (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Switzerland; Asia (China, Japan), and Australia (Melbourne). If any reader knows of other instances, I’d be delighted to include them here.

Private house
A modern-day instance, of 2017, is to be found at a private house in Hohenems (Austria) by Hoffenscher Architekten, led by Marc Hoffenscher and Günter Rümmele. This is situated in the Vorarlberg region in Austria, reputed worldwide for the vibrancy of its contemporary architecture. The choice of pentagons was not arbitrarily chosen but was rather purposefully selected by the architects, being aware of the Cairo connection.
    Disappointingly, upon asking for picture permission and more details the architect did not respond, hence the link only.

Ghelamco Arena

A substantial sighting is at the Ghelamco Arena, home to the Ghent football club, in Belgium. The suspended pentagonal ceiling, installed in 2013, is based on a custom design by Mac Stopa, of Massive Design architects, and is made from acoustic boards manufactured by Ecophon.

© Mac Stopa


Crystal Orange Hotel, Chongwen Menwai Main Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100005, China

A few questions. Does anyone know the background to the Hotel sighting? The pentagons are painted on the exterior. Why is the protruding section painted in orange/yellow? When was this instigated? As an observation, the colouring (as pointed out by Fathauer) is largely unstructured beyond different shades of blue. 


© Robert Fathauer



Zamet Centre, by 3LHD architects
The newly-built (in 2009, by 3LHD architects) Zamet centre in Rijeka, an industrial port city in Croatia, is a large, multi-purpose building with a sports hall, local community offices, library, and retail and service spaces, situated at B. Vidas Street. The building has made extensive use of the Cairo tile as decoration for the outside of the building, with 50, 000 ceramic tiles designed and manufactured specially for the centre! As can be seen, the pentagons are coloured so as to resemble aspects of Croatian life. The stripes were inspired by ‘gromača’, rock formations used all over Croatia by farmers to form fields, in two parts; suhozid – a wall made from local stones and dolac, a small field surrounded by the stone walls, which the centre artificially reinterprets by colour and shape to mimic or resemble the contrast between suhozid and dolac in gromača.
© 3LHD Architects, Images 1, 2   
© 3LHD Architects, Damir Fabijanic,  © 3LHD Architects, Domagoj Blazevic
© 3LHD Architects, Domagoj Blazevic, © 3LHD Architects, Damir Fabijanic


Hørsholm, Denmark
Hørsholm town centre (25 km north of Copenhagen), Denmark, in 2014, from Henrik Jørgensen architects. The studio was awarded the task after winning the invited design competition.
More images:


© Henrik Jørgensen architects




Omotesando Complex, Tokyo, by UN Studio

The relatively newly-built Omotesando complex, in 2008, by UN studios of Amsterdam, is located at the intersection of Omotesando and Meiji Dori in Tokyo, and comprises of a retail programme incorporating flagship stores, shops and restaurants. Omotesando is well known for a series of luxury brand flagship stores. The lead designer in this project was Florian Heinzelmann, who gave the following background details of the instigation:

‘The task at that time was to design a department store which is located in Omotesando Tokyo, an area which is known for its fashion stores.

The reasons why I worked out this pattern are the following.
1. I looked at traditional Japanese prints where a lot of patterns/tessellations are applied. One of the motives is the bellflower which is pentagon based.
2. I came across drawings from Escher where in his Cairo tiling a bellflower like motive can be found. Further does his drawing highly suggest a 3 dimensional weaving of the lines.
3. It is also possible to bend/fold the pattern due to its inherent orthogonal order and utilize it as continuous façade element wrapping around the whole building.

In that sense the choice for the pattern is based on a cultural context, a craft like context in terms of textile and weaving and finally the geometric possibilities to utilize it for a façade.

Finally changing the thickness of the horizontal hexagons enables a differentiation of window/glazed façade size in relation to the inner functions. This was not done continuously but in seven distinct steps due to the demand of the building industry for standardization. However for the human eye it appears that that there is a gradual change from open to closed.

The choice for distinct 7 tiles (it could have been 5 as well) is related to Akira Kurosawa’s movie the seven a Japanese societal as well as fashion context it highly questions the notion of individuality since the tiles yet being distinct form a larger structure where their individuality dissolves’.


© UN Studio, Images 1 Interior, 2 Interweaving elements, 3 Model


Strawinskylaan bicycle underground parking garage, The Netherlands


An interesting use, in the Netherlands, is that by wUrck (sic) architects, at the underground Strawinskylaan bicycle parking garage, and the largest, of 3,750 places, opposite Amsterdam Zuid railway station. This was inspired by the pentagonal shape of the park above and is of a contemporary build, 2018. More background details are at:


Photos by Jan de Vries

© Jan de Vries

At the waterfront in Tromso, Norway, Clarion Hotel The Edge (newly opened conference and business centre 2014) has made extensive use of the Cairo tiling. The 12-story building has 290 hotel rooms and meeting rooms for up to 1000 people. Cairo Pentagon heaven; the tiles are used as ceiling panels, flooring, the exterior, and even (apparently) the planters! For more pictures and details see:

© Detlef Schobert Interior and Exterior

Davos conference centre, Klosters
Another recent application, in 2009, is at the well-known Davos Congress Centre (venue for world economic forums), in Klosters, Switzerland, in the heart of the mountains of Graubünden, one of the Alps most modern congress venues. Here, the pentagons adorn the ceiling of the conference hall, an apparent first use as of a ceiling. This was designed by Basel architects Degelo Architects, by Heinrich Degelo. Little, if anything, is known as to the background to this installation. I have no further detail upon this rather matter of fact statement; the architects did not answer my mail asking for more details. Although it’s most unlikely, would any reader have details to add to the above?
© Markus Schiedeck

United Kingdom 1

Jamia Watford Central (not North Watford) Mosque

An interesting sighting of the pentagons is at a mosque. However, this is not in Cairo as might be thought, and indeed it is not even in a ‘traditional’ Muslim country, but is at Watford, in the United Kingdom. More exactly, this is at the Jamia Watford Central (not North Watford) Mosque, 167 North Western Avenue, Watford, Hertfordshire. This was built in 1983 and opened in 1985 [1].

    The sighting is interesting in many different ways. Not one but two distinct forms can be seen, both outside and inside the mosque. First, as a minaret (pictures are shown below). and second as decoration around the mihrab, or more exactly, as a minor variation of the ‘standard pattern’.
    Such a sighting of an architecture context therefore at first sight lends credence to Martin Gardner’s enigmatic statement in [2] to the tiling appearing ‘occasionally on in the mosaics of Moorish buildings’, albeit he cannot possibly be referring to this, given that his article was of 1975, whilst the mosque was built in much later, as detailed above. However, this sighting, in conjunction with the Ismaili sighting does indeed imply that it is indeed a ‘traditional Islamic pattern’, although as sure as I can be, the few authors that claim this to be seen (in an architectural context], taking their quotes from Gardner are unaware of these instances. This uncertainty has now been resolved, see [3].
    Of interest is the exact geometry of the pentagons; these almost certainly differ. This I qualify by the difficulties of analysis, in that the photos I have of the interior are not altogether satisfactory, as well as the minaret being of a cylinder form, and so analysing from a photo is not ideal. That said, these likely differ. The interior almost certainly consists of the dual of the 32. 4. 3. 4 (with 120° angles) whilst the minaret is possibly (I am less certain here) is of an equilateral pentagon.

Below I show a few photographs of both the minaret and interior. Also, accompanying both is an analysis of the tiling, of which the designer has introduced variations to the theme to the interior tiles.

    Investigating the background here is not straightforward, as the mosque as of this writing (15 October 2015) is lacking email facilities. A previous mail (2013) went unanswered. Arising from this is a whole host of open questions:

1. Where did the minaret design come from?

2. Where did the interior design come from?

3. Who was responsible for the installation?

As ever, if any readers have any additional detail concerning this, no matter how small or minor you may think it may be, I would be delighted to receive details.

    Note that the Mosque sighting was first added to the Cairo pages per se as a distinct entity that is a dedicated page on 2013, of which upon reflection I have now decided to place on the architecture page, with pictures and text suitably updated.



John Sharp, for alerting me to this sighting and for visiting the mosque in person, taking photos and making background enquires, the last unfortunately to no avail.


[2] Gardner, M. Scientific American. Mathematical Games, July. ‘On tessellating the plane with convex polygon tiles’, 1975, pp.112-117. (p. 114 and 116 re Cairo aspect)

© Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Overall scene 

© John Sharp
Detail of minaret (left), analysis (right)

© John Sharp

Detail of interior tiles (left), analysis (right)

United Kingdom 2

Ismaili Centre, London

United Kingdom 3

Inamo Restaurant, London

A minor sighting (found by pure chance in connection with a news report on the BBC on robotics) is at the Inamo St James restaurant in Regent Street, London. Strictly, this is not wholly a Cairo tiling, as the vertical (but not horizontal) ‘base line’ has been omitted on the pentagons, but nonetheless, the design is indeed and intended to be of a Cairo like-nature and so is thus included.
The background as to its instigation remains unknown. Upon research, the design agency ‘Blacksheep’ in 2008 appears to be responsible for the overall décor (although no pentagons are shown in the link below). In a quest for further clarification, an email to them went unanswered.
Nevertheless, the design here must be modern, given that the restaurant is of a ‘high-tech’ nature.

Michael Osborne, an expert on robotics at Oxford University, who kindly told me the restaurant and location, upon my seeing this sighting on a BBC interview featuring him talking on robotics conducted at the restaurant on 14 September 2015, of which the panel can be seen in the background 45 seconds into the clip:


United States

© Santiago Ortiz. Kitchen interior, with tiles as supplied by Daniel Ogassian
Created: 12 June 2012
12 June. Croatia, Zamet Centre added
22 June. Revised 12 July 2013 Japan. Omotesando complex added.
9 February. Switzerland, Davos Congress centre added.
13 August. Norway, Tromso, The Edge hotel added.
12 December. United States, Daniel Ogassian tiles added
13 October. China, Robert Fathauer's Crystal Hotel in China pictures added, replacing earlier instances of 2015
14 October. United Kingdom, Inamo Restaurant added
16 October. United Kingdom, Watford Mosque added, moved and added from a dedicated page of 2013
19 October. Belgium, Ghalamco Arena added
8 June. Austria, house in Hohenems added
12 June. Denmark, Hørsholm town centre paving added
7 August. Netherlands, Strawinskylaan bycle park added