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Why tiles? The TILE in the architecture and urbanism of Lisbon

Updated: May 30, 2018

The ceramic #tile or the Azulejo is the most expressive ornamental art within Portuguese architecture. Tiles are eminently architectonic, they define form, ambiance, space, and they can’t be easily appreciated out of its architectural or urban context.


The #tile production established in Lisbon in the mid 16th century, from where it spread across the country as well as overseas to the Azores, Madeira, and Brazil. Lisbon grew and transformed along with tiles, and people got used to their presence in their daily lives. Tiles became a part of Lisbon’s built environment and shaped the image of this city worldwide.


In its essence, the #tile is a simple material, made of glazed clay. It is the creativity and the expertise of artists which add value and beauty to it. Additionally, the glazed surface reflects the light it receives, suggesting new colours and forms just as fish scales, including the play with light as an intrinsic part of the architecture.


The #tiles popularity and democratization spread during the reconstruction works of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake, with standardization and pre-fabrication extending from architecture to the tile production. The semi-industrialization of tiles continued throughout the XIX century with the extensive use of low-cost standard-tiles in the building facades. The #tile factories Sant’Anna and Viúva Lamego prosperity, which remain active until today, date back to this period.


Initially, tile producers copied the subjects of painting, drawing or tapestry, such as from the great Flemish masters. Over time, the Portuguese #tile production has acquired characteristics of its own and has served as a driving force for the renovation of arts.


Continue reading: The Tile in the Architecture and Urbanism of Lisbon – from Art-Nouveau till today


Post and Photo credits: Lisboa Architecture Walks & Trips


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