The Lisbonense universe of ceramic tiles is infinite. The colourful azulejos cover facades, interior patios, fountains, basically any vertical surface.
The centuries-old tradition continues today. The themes and techniques might have changed but the essence remains. Here is a route in the city connecting some of the most interesting contemporary azulejo designs I came across in the two years when I called this city home.
Museu do Azulejos, São João
The number one resource when it comes to Portuguese azulejo history, the collection of the Museum of Azulejos includes contemporary names such as João Abel Manta – contemporary Portuguese architect who also designed the pavement of Lisbon’s central square Praça dos Restauradores; Maria de Lourdes Castro – abstract artist from Madeira, or Ivan Chermayeff – British-born designer and author of some of the most memorable logos of the 20th century, from The National Geographic to NBC or the Guggenheim Partners.
Ivan Chermayeff’s tiles (above) decorate Lisbon’s Aquarium, for which he also designed the logo.
The name of Surrealejos stands for surreal + azulejos, and all the collections are designed by Luca Colapietro, Italian creative who moved to Lisbon in 2008. His store is close to Saint George Castle, in Mouraria, the former Moorish district of the city.
Eduardo Nery, Santos
Portuguese optical artist Eduardo Nery (1938 – 2013) created several works of public art in Lisbon, and two of them are quite close one to another. A wall of vivid orange, 3-d tiles was created to celebrate Lisbon’s status of European Cultural Capital in 1994 and decorates a public stair on Avenida Infante Santo.
And where the Avenida becomes an under passage before reaching the shores of Tagus, Eduardo Nery covered over 2,000 square metres of walls in these brightly coloured stripes.
Former place of residence for Lisbonense aristocracy, the elegant area of Belém is also home to an iconic museum, MAAT, initially hosted into a former power plant and then extended in 2016, by British architect Amanda Levete, with an organically shaped building covered in 15,000 white glazed 3-d ceramic tiles.
MAAT stands for the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. Its permanent collection is completed with some outstanding temporary exhibitions, and the water promenade, as well as the rooftop terrace of the museum, are among the the best places to enjoy the sun setting where Tagus river meets the Atlantic ocean.
A Little Extra. Graffitti with Patterns of Azulejos
Add Fuel is a Portuguese artist who creates patterns inspired by traditional azulejos whilst his imagery ranges from abstract patterns to cartoon characters or contemporary icons. The photo above is a detail of a mural he created in the LX Factory.