17 May 2015

The Beauty of Lisbon's Azulejo Tiling

Anyone that knows me well knows how much I love having bright colors around. If it were possible to declare my favorite color "rainbow" I probably would. So when visiting Lisbon, like my earlier trip to Fes, Morocco, I was amazed by the colors that radiate from every corner of the city.

The first thing that we noticed about Lisbon was that the stucco of the buildings was typically painted lovely pastels or covered with colorful tiles (called azulejos) that are produced in the region. Whether on a main strip, or a small winding side street, I found myself just enjoying walking around to look at the patterns of the tiles.

Historically, the tiles' purpose was both functional and decorative. Particularly in the hot summer months, interior tiling cools the indoor space while exterior tiling reflects the sun's heat away from the building. Most of the pictures I took of the tiling were just on the outside of buildings we walked past, but tiling can be found inside buildings, from regular homes to businesses and important government buildings, and even palaces.

Tiles everywhere: on average homes...

...and palaces like Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal.

Most azulejos feature geometric shapes or organic-looking patterns of flowers and at first you may think that while beautiful, the tiling is simple in design. But getting up close reveals just how intricate many of the "simple" designs are. And while the geometric designs are very popular, you can easily find portraits, scenes of importance to Portuguese history or to the Catholic faith, or landscape designs.

Plain tile neighbors intricate tile

Tiling surrounding a reflecting pond at the Botanical Garden, Lisbon

The azulejos are inseparable from Portuguese culture, and are beautiful to look at. When visiting Portugal, take time to look around and view the tile - you may be surprised by its intricacy.

Have you been to Portugal? Did you observe the azulejos?


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