Programme Description

This five-day (16 – 21 April 2018) hands-on introductory workshop will focus on the practical use of the polygonal technique as applied to the five historical modular design systems for creating original Islamic geometric patterns. The detailed instructions provided during this five-day workshop will include the design methodology associated with each of these five historical design systems, including:

  1. the system of regular polygons
  2. the four-fold system A
  3. the four-fold system B
  4. the five-fold system
  5. the seven-fold system
System of Regular Polygons Fourfold System A Fourfold System B Sevenfold System
System of Regular Polygons
A Samanid era stucco panel with 6-pointed stars found at the Sabz Pushan excavation near Nishapur, Iran (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Four-fold System A

A Seljuk raised brick border from the minaret of Daulatabad near Balkh, Afghanistan
(© Thalia Kennedy)

Four-fold System B

A Ghurid raised brick pattern at the Friday Mosque at Herat, Afghanistan
(© Thalia Kennedy)

Five-fold System

A Mamluk inlaid stone panel in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Seven-fold System
Sevenfold System: A Mamluk side panel from the minbar at the Sultan al-Mu’ayyad Shaykh Complex in Cairo
(© David Wade)

Each of these systems is characterized by a finite number of polygonal modules that can be assembled into an infinite number of distinct tessellations. Each of these tessellations provides the scaffolding from which geometric designs are then constructed. Instruction will also be provided for the conventions for applying pattern lines to the underlying polygonal tessellations in each of the four historical pattern families: acute, median, obtuse and two-point. Each of these creates a distinctive aesthetic effect within each of the five systems, and these four pattern families are fundamental to this artistic tradition. The final day of this workshop will focus upon the application of these modular systems to the creation of highly complex dual-level designs with self-similar characteristics, and the added ability for their use in creating true quasicrystalline designs with recursive inflation and deflation that adhere to Sir Roger Penrose’s matching rules.

Prerequisites: None

This is an introductory workshop and attendees are not expected to have prior experience in drawing Islamic geometric patterns. However, students attending this workshop should have, at a minimum, basic geometric skills in using a compass and straightedge. Students who are already working with Islamic geometric design and who want to expand their methodological repertoire to include the polygonal technique as a means of creating original patterns are especially encouraged to attend. This program is not recommended for students under the age of 18.


Upon completing the workshop, each student will have:

  • recreated a series of historical geometric designs of graduated complexity, as well as produced a variety of original Islamic geometric patterns.
  • increased their analytical and methodological understanding of traditional Islamic geometric patterns created from each of the five historical design systems.
  • a set of skills that will enable them to continue producing original geometric patterns from each of these five historical design systems beyond the duration of the workshop. This includes multi-level designs with self-similarly and quasi-crystallinity.

Teacher: Jay Bonner
Jay Bonner, an internationally renowned specialist of Islamic geometric design and author of Islamic Geometric Patterns: their Historical Development and Traditional Methods of Construction (Springer 2017). Jay Bonner is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and has lectured and taught design seminars in North Africa, Turkey, Europe and North America. He is also a consulting specialist in the field of Islamic architectural ornament and has worked extensively on projects throughout the world, including al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) in Medina, and al-Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque) in Mecca. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website at

The programme cost is £650 (including materials, accommodation, lunch, and dinner for the duration of the programme). A discount of £100 will be offered to those who can arrange their own accommodation.

For more information contact Zainab at