Wallpaper group

A wallpaper group (or plane symmetry group or plane crystallographic group) is a mathematical classification of a two-dimensional repetitive pattern, based on the symmetries in the pattern. Such patterns occur frequently in architecture and decorative art, especially in textiles and tiles as well as wallpaper.

Example of an Egyptian design with wallpaper group p4m

The simplest wallpaper group, Group p1, applies when there is no symmetry other than the fact that a pattern repeats over regular intervals in two dimensions, as shown in the section on p1 below.

The following examples are patterns with more forms of symmetry:

Examples A and B have the same wallpaper group; it is called p4m in the IUCr notation and *442 in the orbifold notation. Example C has a different wallpaper group, called p4g or 4*2 . The fact that A and B have the same wallpaper group means that they have the same symmetries, regardless of details of the designs, whereas C has a different set of symmetries despite any superficial similarities.

The number of symmetry groups depends on the number of dimensions in the patterns. Wallpaper groups apply to the two-dimensional case, intermediate in complexity between the simpler frieze groups and the three-dimensional space groups. Subtle differences may place similar patterns in different groups, while patterns that are very different in style, color, scale or orientation may belong to the same group.

A proof that there are only 17 distinct groups of such planar symmetries was first carried out by Evgraf Fedorov in 1891[1] and then derived independently by George Pólya in 1924.[2] The proof that the list of wallpaper groups is complete only came after the much harder case of space groups had been done. The seventeen possible wallpaper groups are listed below in § The seventeen groups.


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