Generative Maltese Tiles

link to code


I was tasked to design and code an animating optical illusion. The pattern chosen is inspired by traditional Maltese floor tiles which often sneakily include a Maltese cross. The illusion for this assignment is that regardless of the random generation, there is always a Maltese cross hidden withen the tile pattern. Similarly, the "Kanizsa illusion" is employed to simulate that there are more shapes than there actually is, as the empty space becomes shapes as well.

Design Process

The design is inspired by Maltese tiles, which is a typical feature of old Maltese townhouses. Colorful and bright, the tiles were inspired from Turkey during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Some designs were even given names, including ‘Sieq it-Tigiega’ (hen’s leg) ‘Ghajn il-Baqra’ (cow’s eye) and ‘Il-Bettiegha’ (the melon).

Before beginning the code, I fleshed out what parts of the tile that I would need to include. I split it up by its main parts, and made it so that the code would cycle through a group of functions for each part.


By translating the pattern into a digital, changing form, the generative code becomes a tool for tile artists to plan out their own tiles. I do not think this at all replaces the original art, as the physicality of tile and its use can never be digitized.

By turning the tiles into optical illusions with "hidden" Maltese crosses, it recontexualizes the religious symbol. Beginning with the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades, the eight-pointed cross was used by foreign knights living and ruling the land they resided in. Malta became the headquarters for the knights as the Order of Malta. I think the ghostly visage of the looming Maltese cross plays into the lasting effects Catholicism had on the island, which is the source of the island's current political issues. Malta is the only country in the European Union to prohibit abortion entirely, stemming from its conservative Catholic past.


The assignment can be found here from the Critical Computation course website.