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As Architecture

The arbitrary first, placed in alphabetical order, of a series of four pages titled ‘Cairo Tiling As’ …, in which instances are shown as architecture, flooring, paving (exterior to Egypt) and wall tiles, with each page of a dedicated nature, with here architecture. Typically, these are of a commercial nature. As such, the Cairo tiling appears, as a design, worldwide, in many forms and artefacts, in varying degrees of frequency, and of which I have collected such a listing found under my ‘Miscellaneous’ page. In short, some instances, as detailed above, are of a much more considerable nature that others, so much so that I consider these are worthy of a dedicated page, to better see the examples, without ‘distractions’. As my collection grows, I may add more categories of a dedicated nature. In short, this series of pages is to be regarded as a ‘fun’ page. For sure, matters of the in situ Cairo tiling are by far the more important. However, I have not been unduly carefree or slapdash in my investigation here, this is still undertaken to my highest standards. If any reader knows of other instances, I would be more than delighted to receive details and include on these pages.

The format for each entry, in which I strive for consistency, is a follows (which has evolved and will likely continue to do so):

1. Beginning with the company name and country, I then discuss the marketing name (if any), such as Penta, or Pentax, or similar, or indeed dissimilar, amid a general discussion. Other matters, such as history, contact, is discussed elsewhere, as a separate entity.

2. Contact with the company for picture permission and background details, with picture/s, if permission has been granted. Typically, if so, I show one or more pictures. Further, the favoured format is in two aspects; first, a picture of the overall scene, to better put the paving in context with the surroundings, and then second, a detailed, close up view of the pentagons, to better view the geometry. However, this ideal is not always realisable; sometimes not both of the ideals are available, with only one or the other picture available. When picture permission is not forthcoming, the picture is omitted, with just a text entry only. However, I do not always receive a reply! Typically, the bigger the company, with branches worldwide, the less inclined they are to reply. In years gone by, upon an initial failure in response, I would try again after a definite break, upon which if no reply was received I would thus give up on the company. However, now, with time running out for me at the age of 60, I limit my enquiries to a single mail. In a sense, although galling to an investigator such as myself, a lack of response is understandable to a degree in that I am not purchasing the tiles; the information is not ‘vital’ in a commercial context! Although that said, I do indeed offer good publicity!

Further, with experience gained on major companies, on occasion I think the better of it, for better or worse, and simply do not bother. If any companies reading this who have not responded, or have not been contacted and would like to correspond, I would be delighted to hear from you! 

3. The year when introduced, if known, into their range, and so establishing a history. As a broad premise, the older the instance the better, although ‘old’ examples are few and far between. Typically, this is generally omitted, especially in a commercial context. In short, knowing this will permit a history of sorts, albeit of a bare minimum. As such, of most interest are older instances, loosely defined. Most of the instances seen are of recent times, in the 2000s. Of a date to define ‘early’, the 1970s, and the earlier the better! 

4. Whether the Cairo connection is made. Is the manufacturer/stockist familiar with the Cairo (city) association? Typically, this is not stated, of which whether the manufacturer is aware is left open-ended and so whether the use of the Cairo tiling is purposeful or accidental, the latter in the sense of a generic pentagon tiling, is thus unknown. However, as the Cairo tiling is indeed a rare named association of a tiling, this, to me at least, gives added interest, and so ideally would be included, even if just mentioned in passing.

5. The geometry. As discussed elsewhere, the geometry can vary, from a pentagon that is a ‘near square’ to a ‘near rectangle’ and everything in between, albeit typically, the instances are of a ‘mid-range’ pentagon. On occasion, such details are to be found in the catalogue.

6. Company background. Some brief details of the company, for general interest.

7. Links to the sightings, typically of the company.

8. Acknowledgements.

The reason for this compilation is threefold, in order of importance:

1. A simple documenting of all instances, for the sake of general interest.

2. Any interested reader who desires a Cairo tiling for their home (wall or floor) can find the nearest stockist with relative ease. Of course, this is also certainly restricted to one’s home country, as otherwise the cost of shipping would be disproportionate as to the project. I make no recommendations here as to the quality of the goods offered.

3. A nod to the ‘mathematical tourist’, who upon visiting any of the towns and cities here may want to pay a visit. For obvious reasons, not all sightings here are visitable, being on private property. Although most have been sufficiently identified for this purpose, I will provide more exact details upon request (if available). In particular, I would like to add to my collection where photo permissions have been refused. Do send me something if seen on your travels!

The countries include (with additional numbers in brackets) Austria, Australia (2), Belgium (2), China, Croatia, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Japan, Switzerland, UK (4), and the US.

Australia, Brisbane and Melbourne The Australian Architects ‘Studio505’ in Australia have made use of the Cairo tiling not once but twice, of an upper podium at a mall (completion date not known) in Queen Street, in Brisbane and an office building ‘Pixel’ (completed 2010), in Melbourne. A feature of the Brisbane instance is that of merging the Cairo tiling so that two tiles form a butterfly shape. That of ‘Pixel’ is of a somewhat more distorted use of the tiling. Whether they are familiar with the Cairo tiling is unclear; it is not mentioned at any of the links. The links give numerous pictures.

Upon asking with the architects for more detail, twice, I did receive the courtesy of a reply.  Subsequently, the business in 2016 effectively closed and separated into two new names.

Austria, Private House in Hohenems
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.

Belgium, 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

Belgium, Lacs de l’Eeu d’Heure

As such, there is doubt here as to whether this project, of 2009-2010, described as a textile hotel and village, Lacs de l’Eeu d’Heure, Belgium, from Samyn and Partners, was realised. It would appear not, being an ‘projects selection for studies & competitions’. From their website:

The design. The roofing design should sometimes have a flexible, organic form to enable easy construction on uneven, rough ground, and at other times it will have a set form so that it can be erected on a rectangular plot of land. For reasons of comfort and cost it is necessary that these designs with varying forms can be constructed by assembling identical polygons, which individually constitute a constructive unit. The only known paving with all of the required qualities is the so-called “Cairo” paving.

China, Crystal Orange Hotel 

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? Of interest is the colouring scheme chosen. As an observation, the colouring (as pointed out by Robert Fathauer) is largely unstructured beyond different shades of blue. 

© Robert Fathauer

Croatia, Zamet Centre, by 3LHD architects

The Zamet Centre in Rijeka, Croatia, shows a most impressive sighting, in many ways, here as architecture, with the building itself, and also in a paving context (as this is a dual aspect sighting, the latter discussed on the ‘As Paving’ page). This was relatively recently built, in 2008, by 3LHD architects, of Zagreb, Croatia. Rijeka (population 128,000, of 2011) is an industrial port city in Croatia.

The tiling is extensive, of equilateral pentagons (determined from the design drawings provided by the architects), in various shades of grey, produced by Florim, Ceramiche, an Italian manufacturer of large format porcelain tiles.

The edifice 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 also 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! The pentagons are coloured 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.

A most pleasing and delightfully produced 5.35 video of this is at:

The pentagons feature throughout.

More photos can be seen at:


© 3LHD Architects


Mladena Žarković (office administration), Koraljka Mandaric (PR coordinator), Marko Dabrovic, Sasa Begovic (architects).

I might just add that 3LHD has been most helpful in every way with my numerous inquiries and asking for further details, from the office staff to the architects themselves. Well done everybody!


Japan, 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

Netherlands, Strawinskylaan Bicycle Underground Parking Garage


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:

© Jan de Vries

Norway, Clarion Hotel The Edge, Tromso
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

Switzerland,  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 1/3, 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 2/3, The Ismaili Centre, London

The Ismaili Centre in London, opened in April 1985, is a religious, social, and cultural meeting place for the Ismaili community in the United Kingdom. The Centre is the first religious and cultural centre to be specially designed and built for the Ismaili community in the West. Located in South Kensington, the Centre occupies a prominent site on Cromwell Road, facing the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Interestingly, not one but two instances of the Cairo tiling can be seen, although specific detail as to the background is unclear. However, their introduction was seemingly by the German artist and teacher Karl Schlamminger (1935-2017).

Muqarnas, left, Panelling on the West window wall of the Prayer Hall, right.

United Kingdom 3/3, One Smithfield, Stoke-on-Trent

A notable architectural-themed sighting of the Cairo tiling is the ‘One Smithfield’ building, a recent (2015) £40m, part of a 100,000 square feet five-storey council office complex at Stoke-on-Trent, UK, by RHWL Architects and then Aedeas (the latter taking over the former). In extent, this is probably the largest of the genre. Supposedly, this is said to be inspired by the work of the renowned ceramics designer Clarice Cliff, who was born and worked in Stoke-on-Trent, although more precisely, it appears to be just the colouring scheme she used, rather than that of the pentagon design.  A feature is that of the five differently coloured windows, with an innovation by the leading UK glass firm Pilkington. They describe the process:

Standard practice when creating coloured double glazing units is to apply the colour to surface four – on the inner pane of glass. However, this can reduce the vibrancy of the colour, due to added reflections from the outer pane. In order to create maximum brightness, Pilkington United Kingdom Limited digitally screen printed the colours onto surface two – the inside of the outer sheet of glass. Pilkington Optiwhite, true low-iron glass was used for the outer pane, which has an extremely high level of clarity and therefore allows the colours to be seen in their truest form. To ensure the colour in the glass panes was completely opaque, a second layer of ceramic paint was applied to the inside of the glass, creating a richly coloured, highly pigmented facade.
More detail can be found on the Pilkington link below.
Note also the Cairo tiling outside the building as a paving, almost certainly complimenting this.
An open question as to whether the architects were indeed familiar with the Cairo tiling or not, and if there was some reason for the choosing of such a pentagonal design. Upon inquiring with Aedeas, I did not receive the courtesy of a reply, although Tom Kendrew, associated with the project when with RHWL, did at least answer my mail. Certainly, this sighting has been extensively discussed in architectural journals, newspapers, web and a Pilkington news release, but even so, nowhere is made mention of the possible Cairo tiling connection. The question is thus left still unresolved.

One Smithfield building, with Cairo tiling paving in the foreground, left, Facade detail, right

References: Pilkington
Pp. 8, 10-11

United States, Lake Flato and Matsys

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. REMOVED 8 APRIL 2019

13 October. China, Robert Fathauer's Crystal Hotel in China pictures added, replacing earlier instances of 2015.
14 October. United Kingdom, Inamo Restaurant added. REMOVED 8 APRIL 2019
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. (Removed 15 July 2019, now placed more appropriately under 'As Paving'.)
7 August. Netherlands, Strawinskylaan bycle park added.

12 March. UK. One Smithfield building text and imagery added.
15 March. Australia. Studio505 text added.
31 May. United States. Lake Flato and Matsys link added
4 June. Belgium. Lacs de l’Eeu d’Heure text and link added
17 July. Croatia, Rijeka. Reappraisal of Zamet Centre. Text expanded and with different pictures, to better show the dual nature listing.

Re-organised 4 April 2019 under changed title, 'As Architecture' as part of a new themed series of the 'Cairo Tiling As...' instances. Previously titled as 'Architecture'