PATTERNS OF PORTUGAL
August 29, 2017
Written by: Laura Jaye
Photographed by: Laura Jaye
Lisbon’s tiled facades are well known throughout the world for their intricate design and vibrant colors. While many buildings still stand true to this traditional style, modern architects are turning towards a cleaner, but no less intricate, interpretation of Lisbon’s historic designs.
When roaming the city, I began to notice the striking similarities between old and new Portuguese architecture. Both styles, even from afar, hint at only subtle variations in color-complex tile patterns blend to look like one-toned facades and equally mesmerizing, the modern buildings gleam as solid white structures. With a close eye, though, the complex details of both architectural styles can be appreciated.
The facades of old Lisbon neighborhoods use traditional square-shaped tiles that display interlocking motifs to create seemingly never-ending patterns. Similarly, the modern the architecture uses the same idea of repeating geometric elements to create endless patterns.
The Vodafone Office Complex, for example, features a facade of protruding shapes that seem randomized, but actually uses the same shape rotated on its side to create the pattern. Even more striking is watching the sun pass over the facade as it casts deep shadows, creating a secondary pattern that changes from sunrise to sunset.
The more I saw throughout the city, the more apparent the running theme between old and new became - the repetition of shapes to make a distinct pattern. In the shimmering facade of Restaurant Tejo, scale-like tiles keep this otherwise massive building feeling light and airy. (The Restaurant Tejo is next to the Lisbon Oceanarium, so it’s obvious why they used ‘scale-like’ tiles). The first thing that caught my eye while passing the building was the staccato-punctured windows along the lower half of the building. While they seem random, they keep in line with the overall continuity of the stacking scale pattern. Each ‘scale’ varies slightly in white/gray tones to create a subtle mosaic effect, which mimics the ‘hand painted’ texture of the old Portuguese tiles.
"Modern architects are turning towards a cleaner, but no less intricate, interpretation of Lisbon’s historic designs."
"Even though contemporary buildings are often void of colorful tiles,
each architect finds a way to create an interlocking pattern reminiscent of its Portuguese past."
Likewise, Oriente Station’s never-ending triangular shapes link together in a repetition of line and mold the entire exterior ceiling design.
One of the few contrasts I noticed between the old and new Lisbon, however, is in color choices - bright and vibrant colors of the old era versus subtle white and gray tones of the modern architecture. Even though contemporary buildings are often void of colorful tiles,
each architect finds a way to create an interlocking pattern reminiscent of its Portuguese past.