Inspirations: A Short Film Celebrating the Mathematical Art of M.C. Escher

Almost two years ago, Spanish filmmaker Cristóbal Vila shot an exquisite little film, Nature by Numbers, which captured the ways in which mathematical concepts (Fibonacci Sequence, Golden Number, etc.) reveal themselves in nature. And the short then clocked a good 2.1 million views on YouTube alone.

This week, Vila returns with a new film called Inspirations. In this case, the inspiration is M.C. Escher (1898-1972), the Dutch artist who explored a wide range of mathematical ideas with his woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. Although Escher had no formal training in mathematics beyond secondary school, many mathematicians counted themselves as admirers of his work. (Visit this online gallery to get better acquainted with Escher’s art, and be sure to click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images). As Vila explains, Inspirations tries to imagine Escher’s workplace, “what things would surround an artist like him, so deeply interested in science in general and mathematics in particular.” It’s a three minutes of unbridled imagination.

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Comments (5)
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  • jael says:

    Awesome…. brilliant, a remarkable visual feast. Thank you

  • “Inspirations” is superb. Your animation is spellbinding. The lizard snorting made me laugh with delight.

    Wonderful choice of music – it fits my image of Escher and his work.

    Thank you SO MUCH for such a loving tribute.

    Somewhere Maurits is smiling I’m sure.

  • Marc G.C. says:

    Without knowing about Escher this video is really great, knowing about him makes the video even better.

    I really enjoy the crocodile part!

  • Bill Trenfel says:

    This is simply marvelous. The quality and immaganation is top notch! I have never seen anything quite like this.

  • David says:

    I received a Master of Landscape Architecture degere from UT Austin. Initially inspired by sustainable development policy in Southeast Asia, I pursued the study of law, receiving a J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law and then an LL.M. from the University of Hong Kong in international investment and development.After around six years of practice in the United States and Japan, I found that the practice of landscape architecture played a critical advocacy role in the vision, design, and stewardship of both the developed and undeveloped landscape, “natural” and urban, and that my training as an advocate could play an important role in realizing that.Upon graduation from UTSOA, I moved to San Francisco to work with Marta Fry Landscape Associates (MFLA ). San Francisco was a logical choice to begin a career in landscape architecture—not only did I serve an internship with Peter Walker and Partners in Berkeley, but it was here that the practice had some of its greatest proponents from within the United States.My interests in landscape architecture were closely tied to the broad portfolio of MFLA’s work, which challenges and pushes the edges of what the practice is. MFLA is a landscape architecture studio whose practice encompasses the larger physical scales of urban design and master planning, to commercial, hospitality, park, and residential design to temporal urban, retail rebranding, and product design.My interest in sustainable development policy, while initially rooted in the developing world, remains strong, although I find that its application in urban environments in the United States is equally critical to issues facing the increasingly urban character of the country and the crisis of identity that plagues many communities. The challenges are similar.So many people at UTSOA had influences on how I approach my work now. Undoubtedly, Simon Atkinson instilled, if not reinforced a boldness in our approach not only to scope but also to the imperative visionary roles landscape architecture does and must play in our culture and society. Hope Hasbrouck ensured that we ask the right questions and that we ask and answer them well. This was a critical point of connection for me in my advocacy training as an attorney, and translating that to the language of design and its choice making continues to be invaluable. Fritz Steiner imbued me with the understanding of our profession as a true threaded community.I see that each of us plays the role of mentor to others and that our decisions have cascading effects—they impact the course of events and potentially valuable legacies in society and culture.Differing in scale, projects I have been a part of have presented different kinds of challenges. Our work in crafting the Transbay Redevelopment Project Area Streetscape and Open Space Concept Plan in collaboration with the San Francisco Redevelopement Agency and Planning Department is a good example. The collapse of much of the raised freeway network in downtown San Francisco after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 provided the city with an unprecedented opportunity to redevelop approximately 40 acres south of Market Street. The goal of the Concept Plan was to guide critical public realm improvements to what is to be the city’s densest emerging urban neighborhood. Once realized, the streetscape and open space improvements will fulfill a critical function of knitting together a mix of architectural project types and dominant transportation infrastructure elements that occurs across the twenty block area, while making the streets more inviting for walking and biking. To accomplish this, we aimed to develop the most advanced streetscape concepts that melded sophisticated design with sustainable strategies. Ultimately, the intent was to create a unique identity for the Transbay neighborhood visible in the design of its public sidewalks, parks, and alleyways.Another interesting project is the redevelopment of the decommissioned military post at Fort Baker, which sits at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. In collaboration with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, we are participating in restoring this urban national park, specifically its beachhead, surrounding habitat, and recreational facilities. This project will serve to complement the new Lodge and Institute at the Golden Gate, whose mission will be to advance the health, sustainability, and protection of the environment. Our intent in this project is to marry habitat restoration with the cultural legacy of Fort Baker as a military outpost and the need to serve an active Coast Guard presence on-site. Of particular interest to me has been the role of the landscape architect in the incremental funding process that these redevelopment initiatives are dependent on. We play an important role in crafting strategy and vision in garnering both public and private support for these long term endeavors.At a very different scale, our partnership with Old Navy in its rebranding effort has been exciting. Collaborating with HMKM, an architectural practice based in London, we were asked to craft a strategy to introduce an interior “garden” into the new concept for Old Navy stores. Our approach was to develop synergistic scenarios where the garden took on different forms depending on qualities of light, exposure to exterior climate, and spatial variation, while retaining a coherent set of attributes that would reinforce brand identity. Working toward a national roll-out of these concepts on over 1,400 locations has required innovative solutions, and the design process has morphed back and forth multiple times and continues to change as the concepts are tested in prototype locations across the country. Interestingly, I am often asked what retail rebranding has to do with the practice of landscape architecture. I explain that all sites possess a layered narrative that forms the basis of identity, whether or not it is manifested in legible forms, processes, or phenomena. Rebranding is a recharacterization, reorientation, or rereading of this narrative that speaks to its social and temporal context.The biggest challenge for landscape architecture today is the same as it was 100 years ago—resource management. Today’s challenge, designing within the context of scarce oil and water resources, is more acute than it was in the past, however, and requires more than coping strategies or “green” design where development is inappropriate. Today we must all be advocates for crafting intelligent policy and development principles. ASLA has made great strides through its Advocacy Network. Support of that and similar initiatives is essential if we are to create a viable map for the future.

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