Transbay Transit Center will include Penrose pattern, highlighting scientific discovery

Transbay Transit Center will include Penrose pattern, highlighting scientific discovery

Transbay Transit Center will include Penrose pattern, highlighting scientific discovery

SAN FRANCISCO (June 22, 2013) — A groundbreaking geometric pattern discovered by one of the world’s leading mathematical physicists will grace the exterior of the Transbay Transit Center, enhancing the building design by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.

Eminent British scientist Dr. Roger Penrose recently granted permission for Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects to use the pattern known as Penrose rhombus tiling for the perforations in the Transit Center’s pearlescent white metal skin. The pattern is notable because it can be extended infinitely without repeating itself. Working with Dr. Penrose, the firm will incorporate the pattern into the design of the multi-modal transportation center’s curving exterior wall. Dr. Penrose discovered the pattern in 1974, spawning the field of quasicrystals, which led to breakthroughs in material science and biology.

Penrose tiling is ideal for the Transit Center because it will create a seamless appearance between the panels that make up the building’s undulating exterior. The perforations will create a lace-like screen, leaving 35 percent of the wall surface open to light and air and allowing diffused light to fill the interior.

“We are thrilled to be able to use Dr. Penrose’s pattern in the design of the Transbay Transit Center,” said Fred Clarke, senior principal. “This pattern is especially appropriate for the Bay Area, a center for science, art, and technology.”

Dr. Penrose noted that the pattern reveals the hidden aspects of mathematical structure, some of which had been hinted at earlier in the works of 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler, and, to some extent, in ancient Islamic designs. The existence of the pattern was unexpected, he added, because it seems to violate the standard symmetry rules of crystallography, the study of the arrangement of atoms in solids.

"I am delighted that the Transbay Transit Center has chosen to employ a non-periodic 5-fold quasisymmetric mathematical pattern that I discovered in 1974, in order to adorn the exterior skin of their magnificent project, in this most impressive design,” Dr. Penrose said.

Dr. Penrose has worked and collaborated with great minds such as Stephen Hawking and M.C. Escher. In 1988, Dr. Penrose and Stephen Hawking were both awarded the Wolf Prize for their contributions to the understanding of the universe. Penrose developed the famous “Penrose Triangle” which Escher used in much of his artwork, including his piece The Waterfall in 1961. He is currently the Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute of Oxford as well as an Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College.

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