Street Art in Lisbon: calçada, azulejos & graffiti!
Art is everywhere on the streets of Lisbon. Perhaps not conventionally as in the streets of Florence, but it’s nevertheless everywhere in the form of cobble stone patterns, tiled walls & modern age grafitti. Nearly every “praça” in Lisbon has once upon a time boasted an intricate CALÇADA design (cobbled stone pavements), originating from the Roman tradition of road paving. But be warned – they’re not only uneven but also worn & slippery, so sensible walking shoes are a must. However, a very emblematic Portuguese art form it is, especially where patterns are added.However, this type of traditional paving involves a high cost of materials & level of skill, so it is slowly being restricted to the city’s historic centre where you can still enjoy it. Featured extensively on the interiors of churches & palaces throughout Portugal, AZULEJOS (glazed wall tiles) also adorn the exteriors of many of Lisbon’s buildings & from humble home facades to huge street murals, they are simply stunning! Introduced to the Iberia peninsula by the Moors, the word “azulejo” comes from “azul” (blue). Initial tiles depicted typical Moorish designs of arabesque & geometric patterns such as triangles, squares & diamonds; changing to mostly floral patterns or religious scenes with blue & yellow being a favourite colour combination, when Portuguese & Flemish artists began to produce tiles in Lisbon in the 16th Century; then later turning into an explosion of more exotic themes & colours inspired by the ever expanding Portuguese empire. Some of the best examples can be seen at the Palácio do Marquês da Fronteira with its splendid 17th and 18th century decorative tiles. GRAFITTI is either the scourge of a city or impressive pieces of urban art, depending on your viewpoint. But even if you dislike the disfiguring of an ancient capital, it’s impossible not to be in awe of the work by artists such as Vhils, the tag name of Alexandre Farto (born Lisbon 1987).His art is unique among the world’s street community – he has torn, drilled and blasted his way around the globe to create uncommon and striking portraits of the common citizen with his most spectacular projects being those that emerge on the walls of buildings. So, as well as featuring the ancient arts of “Azulejos” and “Calçada” extensively, the Portuguese capital is gradually turning into a huge gallery for innovative street art. Personally, I much enjoy graffiti-spotting around Lisbon & think that, turning crumbling buildings that you once tried to avoid looking at into eye catching art, available free of cost to all, is genius!