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Tesselating/Tiling in the Real-World


SEED54 is an 8'-tall artwork that is creating a stir. Its shape is ...?... (like an elongated, flattened sphere?), its random cutouts are ...?... (like kidneys?), and the lines on the surface are ...?... (like star tracks?).

Installed outdoors on on a plaza at 1330 Avenue of the Americas (NYC), SEED54 was designed by Haresh Lalvani, a sculptor and architecture professor. He does not care how it is viewed, but notes it is part of his "career-long inquiry into morphology in nature."

Lalvani says: “I’m interested in seeing what design principles nature uses...Math, perhaps; maybe physics, whatever. The whole D’Arcy Thompson-type stuff.”

If you not familiar with the biologist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, his classic text On Growth and Form documented patterns in nature. Also, he claimed that physical principles controlled nature's growth and resultant structures (e.f. spiral nautilus shell, vein patterns in butterfly wings, spirals in pine cones, etc.), and thus could be described in mathematical terms.

Lalvani's sculpture SEED54 is shaped like an egg, even though it is built using welded stainless-steel plates. He notes: “This is essentially a tiling problem,” which becomes difficult due to the curved surfaces....think plane-tesselations that are warped?

For example, it is not possible to tile a curved surface with regular hexagons. This is why a R. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes and soccer balls integrate regular hexagons and pentagons.

Instead, Lalvani's tiling uses hexagons that are are irregular, with sides and angles that vary. In fact, some of hexagons are concave, with internal angles that exceed 180o. Though the hexagons are all different, Lalvani claims they "all fit harmoniously into one object.” Also, the kidney-shaped cutouts “disguise” the hexagons.

Summarizing his feelings regarding SEED54 and his other sculptures, Lalvani states: “We didn’t say we were making beautiful objects...But there’s something to do with math. I think human beings pick up a sense of order. It’s what the mind does — it sees patterns.”

Source: H. Fountain's "A Play on Nature's Patterns," New York Times, 2/4/2013