Calçada Portuguesa [Looking at How Patterns Celebrate the City of Lisbon]

in photography •  last year


A Citywide Mosaic

The signature of Lisbon has to be the Portuguese pavement - Calçada Portuguesa - an art form that has celebrated sidewalks and plazas since the mid-19th century. This style is distributed uniquely throughout the city. The warm white and gray stones cluster around objects and public spaces all across Lisbon in different ways. My eyes were constantly glued to the ground, so in this series of photographs we're going to take a look at the intricacies of this citywide mosaic!









Identifying Streetscape Elements

The patterns here are functional too, it's not all about beauty. Lines demarcate changes in movement and speed of pedestrians. This technique helps alleviate bottlenecks and wayfinding in tight places. Here's an amazing example of pattern-work identifying a storefront, a high/low traffic zone and street edge (above). All of this takes place within the same palette of stones. There's a lot we can learn from this example in the USA. Concrete is quick and cheap but what does it add to the value of public realm? While mosaics are obviously labor intensive and expensive, they're also extremely resilient. They don't crack or buckle every season like concrete does. It's mostly a matter of climate (this would be a pain in the ass to shovel snow off of). But southern cities in the States have a lot to learn from Lisbon.


Celebrating Public Spaces

Are there ways we can enhance public spaces and celebrate sidewalks differently? Lisbon clearly has a language that makes it unique. As designers, we should challenge our cities to discover their own unique palette as well.

Coming up, I'll share an urban design project I worked on in Coral Gables, Florida. We used similar strategies of patternwork to identify spaces and curate the movement of pedestrians. Stay tuned :)


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Design is a powerful thing! So simple and so beautiful!


It makes a huge difference when experiencing a city for the first time!


pocketsend:101@voronoi, have fun!


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The Calçada Portuguesa are really fantastic!!! In the night, under the light of the street lamps, they look also more brilliant than during the day! ^_^


They do! And it was amazing to meet you this past week Silvia :)

The stone plays with the light in a brilliant way. Now, sadly, I'm back to the concrete jungle in NYC.


It was amazing also for us!!! :D It was nice to know that you speak some words in italian :D


Ha, that's very kind of you... io parlo italiano terribile... ma pratico un po 'di più!


Don't worry, I speak a terrible English, so your italian is perfect for me :D

Love how the design connects everything!


I was going to make some blockchain puns in the post but resisted that temptation ;)

Those are quite beautiful... and remind me of the way there seems to be more "pride in public spaces" in many parts of Europe.

I spent my teen years (and a bit more) in the south of Spain which in many places has a similar mosaic tradition for public pavements. Instead of cobblestones, they actually use smaller beach pebbles, generally very FLAT and set on end. They are sorted into dark/black, pale/white and reddish and used to create pavement patterns... I believe the original inspiration is primarily Moorish, although they are known as "Empedrados Granadinos" (loosely translates as "Granada style embedded stones").


That's a great way to put it @reddragonfly, "pride in public spaces." Here in the states sometimes they become more of a chore, which is unfortunate.

I'm looking into these Empedrados Granadinos now, beautiful! Thanks for sharing and for the thoughtful comment.

These were exactly what I was looking for to put in my gallery. Do I have permission to use them?

If you enter one of these in my contest you will surely take home 10 SBD!


Absolutely! How can I enter? And yes of course, you have my permission Old Dog :)


Excellent, just submitted one!

Yes, that's beautiful indeed :D and you can see this not only in Lisbon but also in so many other cities in Portugal, like Porto or Coimbra, btw the people who make this beatiful work are called "calçeteiros" ;) great post cheers


calçeteiros! Thanks for the insider tip @aleister, it's exciting to learn more about the streetscape culture and history here.

great work keeep it up... upvoted


Cool streets design guy :P

A great find! I wonder how far back the tradition goes.


In Lisbon, middle 1800's! I wonder what triggered it...


Turns out there's a fair amount on it on the web. See here for a start. Or just Google Image "Lisbon paving". Seems to be worth a trip, right there!

those patterns are mind blowing nice clicks :)


Thanks so much @blazing!

Glad you liked the pavement designs of my country @voronoi and taking the time to highlight its designs, Lisbon is not the only place to have these Portugal as many of these down many commercial streets.


I'll need to do a country-wide tour next time around! Amazing patterns :)

Useful information is what we want
Thank you


Useful information is what we get.

Master art. I bet some people walking there not even notice it.

Thank you for sharing, I follow you with pleasure

Very interesting, i did not know they were functional, thanks for the information, we have those in some places here in Brasil too.

Greetings from Venezuela, excellent post, I invite you to visit my blog

It seems that a beautiful flower snake is lying on the street.
타타감탄.jpg thanks voronoi!

That is so aesthetically pleasing, thank you for sharing, And you deserved to win Old Dog's contest!

nice post my friend well done

So great that you've shared this beautiful aspect of Lisbon. I just wanted to add that there are two types of stone used, white and blue limestone for patterns and granite for non-slip areas. These pavements can be deadly in the winter, as the limestone becomes polished over time. Especially in the hilly areas!

Lisbon Make whole country like ART, beautiful

I was as impressed as you were with those mosaics. We all took so many pictures of the streets while deeply appreciating their beauty, design, functionality, durability, precision, continuity and consistency.....incredible!

So glad I came across your post. Grateful to see this art through your lens.