Looking for tiles? How about azulejos

Looking for tiles? How about azulejos

Portuguese style In vogue from five centuries, the azulejos are seen as coverings of large areas inside and outside buildings in Goa. Photos by the author

The elegant ethnicity of traditional handmade tiles can work in perfect harmony with the earthy ambience of any dwelling.

While most of the methods to create these tiles are indigenous, a few of the tile making techniques have been handed over to India several centuries ago and have remained ingrained in the local scenario long enough to be considered regional heritage.
The azulejos are yet another traditional handpainted tiles available predominantly in Goa in India.

Being the most expressive forms of Portugal culture and their original contribution too, the azulejos have had significant inputs to their styling and articulation from India as well. This tilemaking process is one of the many trails that the Portuguese have imparted to the Goan tradition.

The azulejos are a typical form of Portuguese painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tile work. Classically, it is a square plaque of ceramic material, one side of which is decorated and glazed. They were primarily introduced as decoration over flat plastered surfaces, floors, walls and even ceilings. 

A specific sensibility in these tiles translated them into a utilitarian benefit in addition to their ornamental aspect.

The azulejos have the functional capacity to control temperatures in interior environments and forms a buffer for dampness, heat and noise.
They reflect light too due to the predominant use of white in their expression.
In vogue from five centuries, the azulejos are seen as coverings of large areas inside and outside buildings.

It has gone far beyond its utilitarian function and its use as an ornamental art form, offering a poetic contribution to the creation of Goan architecture.

Church style
Seen as decorations on walls and floors of churches and houses in Goa, the azulejos typically depict a variety of scenes and cultures of Goa.
However, they are not mere decorative icons anymore but display new tastes and record images that form the lexicon of the users in the region.

Still in vogue in train stations, parks, restaurants, streets and other public places of Portugal especially in Lisbon, the azulejos thrives as an art form with contemporary adaptations. In Goa, they have moved on from their traditional expressions to contemporary versions of the tiles which at times simply serve as memorabilia, name plates, house numbers or even mirror frames too.
The Portuguese azulejos of Goa have surely created a distinctiveness that sets them apart from its contemporary adaptations.

Their colour, design and size can be custom-made to suit individual taste and decor. Interlocking curvilinear, geometric or floral motifs with blue and white assemblage for borders are the typical azulejo tile specialities. The azulejo tiles are characteristically available in shades of blue, yellow, green and white. Newer versions of the azulejos have introduced many new colours, some of which add a completely fresh flavour to this traditional tile. However the popularity of the blue and white combination remains unabated.

(Nandita is an architect, academician,critic and author. )