Wythoff construction

In geometry, a Wythoff construction, named after mathematician Willem Abraham Wythoff, is a method for constructing a uniform polyhedron or plane tiling. It is often referred to as Wythoff's kaleidoscopic construction.

The method is based on the idea of tiling a sphere, with spherical triangles – see Schwarz triangles. This construction arranges three mirrors at the sides of a triangle, like in a kaleidoscope. However, different from a kaleidoscope, the mirrors are not parallel, but intersect at a single point. They therefore enclose a spherical triangle on the surface of any sphere centered on that point and repeated reflections produce a multitude of copies of the triangle. If the angles of the spherical triangle are chosen appropriately, the triangles will tile the sphere, one or more times.

If one places a vertex at a suitable point inside the spherical triangle enclosed by the mirrors, it is possible to ensure that the reflections of that point produce a uniform polyhedron. For a spherical triangle ABC we have four possibilities which will produce a uniform polyhedron:

The process in general also applies for higher-dimensional regular polytopes, including the 4-dimensional uniform 4-polytopes.

Uniform polytopes that cannot be created through a Wythoff mirror construction are called non-Wythoffian. They generally can be derived from Wythoffian forms either by alternation (deletion of alternate vertices) or by insertion of alternating layers of partial figures. Both of these types of figures will contain rotational symmetry. Sometimes snub forms are considered Wythoffian, even though they can only be constructed by the alternation of omnitruncated forms.