Tiny Teeny Tiles

Posted April 3rd, 2012

Tile has played a major part of my life for the last several months, so it’s not a surprise that I recently noticed a tall building covered in tiles that I’ve walked by many times before. Last weekend, while walking home with Donna from the farmer’s market at the San Francisco Ferry Building, I stopped to admire the structure.

The building has no windows or signage, but it is entirely covered in small tiles. I moved closer to inspect its surface. I was struck by how many one-inch-square tiles (Tiny Teeny Tiles?) covered the building.

A closeup of the tiny tiles with my hand for comparison

“Let’s count the tiles!” I said. So Donna counted up and I counted across a small section of the tiles. We made a quick estimate of the number of sections on the wall and I punched the numbers into Soulver. The result was 2.5-million tiles!

Looking at this wall is a great way to hone your understanding of large numbers. You can look closely at one tile, then tilt your head back and see all of them as they seem to blur together toward the top.

The building as seen from Market Street

I think my excitement outlived Donna’s as she began to walk home while I still intently studied what I assume appears to passers-by to be a drab wall. If you’d like to see a lot of tiles at once and improve your understanding of large numbers, I recommend you stop by One Bush Plaza, along Market Street.


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