The Portuguese pavement is one of the oldest urban art expressions in the city of Lisbon. Everything began in the reign of king Manuel I… let’s get to know its story.
The Portuguese pavement is a form of art whose history goes further back to the 16th century, during D. Manuel’s reign. The king ordered paving Rua Nova dos Mercadores, considered at the time the commercial centre of spices and richnesses and this way started a tradition of craftsmen.
But it was in the 19th century, during the period of the city’s reconstruction, after the 1755 earthquake, which the pavement had its heyday. The materials used have been mostly calcareous and basalt, drawing geometrical figures with motives from popular and ocean inspiration. One of the well known pavements, with the wavy relief was used as an inspiration for the ‘’calçadão’’ of Rio de Janeiro. Can you see its resemblance?
Besides the Lusophone countries the Portuguese pavement fashion internationalized in Macau and New York with a memorial dedicated to John Lennon in Central Park. The same has been used as an inspiration for artists since the last decades as the Bazilian landscape architect Burle Marx who in the 1970’s added red basalt, giving a different configuration to the pavement. And here we have famed artists such as Vhils with a tribute to the queen of Fado, Amália Rodrigues.
With no doubt, the Portuguese pavement is another element which embellishes the city, but the white and even stones don’t give much security to everyday’s mobility. If Lisbon has got its hills of ups and downs, the last ones turn into drastic slips, mainly if the floor is wet.
Another problem is its maintenance, which is expensive and unfortunately, as in many crafts, the profession is gradually disappearing.
Despite various opinions around this beautiful, but dangerous floor in rainy days, this form of art undoubedly features Lisbon, as its light or colourful tiles. We hope it doesn’t disappear completely.