Ghita Abens

Generating new tiles models inspired from the Moroccan and Portuguese Azulejos


Carlos RosaIADE creative university
Bruno Silva, IADE creative university


The tiles' industry isn’t just an economical major factor for Portugal only, but it is also an important visual element of its culture. Portuguese tiles design has experienced many changes throughout the years, and now we can see so many artists expressing contemporary work by using the tiles as a visual tool. During these changes, Portuguese tiles artists have always been open minded about mixing styles to find new models that could express the multicultural history of the country, and one of the most frequent style that we find in the design is the Andalusian one, that came from North Africa, Morocco. My Ph.D. project is about creating new contemporary models of tiles, through an artificial generator combining the Portuguese and Moroccan Azulejos pattern models. I have been analyzing the tiles around the city of Lisbon and I can’t help but notice small elements of the Moroccan geometrical parts in some of the Azulejos, that’s when I thought that maybe we should try to accentuate this style and develop it even more in a contemporary way, by creating, with the help of artificial intelligence, a system that can generate new tiles models based on the Moroccan and Portuguese forms.

Keywords: Azulejo – intercultural –models – contemporary – technology – machine-learning


The objective is to study if the artificial generator can keep the cultural identity in any visual creation, therefore the Azulejo was the perfect cultural tool to be used for this experiment, The purpose of this is not to replace the designer’s job but to help him and save time for his creation. The study on the Azulejo will be on a visual level, which means that it is going to be used as a pattern and motif reference rather than a materialistic one. To be able to prove this hypothesis, it is a must that a cultural study should be conducted for a better understanding of both cultures and trying not to fall into stereotypes. Through this technical historical research, we should understand the influences of the forms and colors and the similarities that both styles have in common. This will be used in the programming part as values to the algorithm so that the artificial generator preserve the cultural identity of both styles.

Literature review

we decided to divide our research in three main points : cultural design - graphic design and technology, which means that our litterature references must be around these three main areas.


To be able to express this cultural identity through a machine we need to understand first the influences and idiologies of the designs. The first part of our project will include mapping design, where ze will be focusing on the path of development of these patterns mainly on the visual part: their origins, development, forms, meanings and external influences, to better understand each aspect of their compositions. The next step will be bringing out the fundamental elements and grids of both patterns, so that we can be able to categorize them into groups. Since the Moroccan and Portuguese tiles have several differences, it is important during this stage to make a comparison between the elements we collected, so that we can showcase the aspects in common and the elements that differentiate them. It is very important to focus our visual references during this step of research, since we are interested in the influence of both style on themselves, our target should be regions and monuments that had the effect of both cultures, such as : the Algarve region, Coimbra monuments, Sintra palace, north and west Morocco, Safi, Al Jadida , Fez etc…Afterward, we will make a survey to observe the users’ reactions, in this case, it will be in the form of workshops, where we will ask for several designers to create, from the elements we collected, new patterns combining both styles. In another hand, we will be asking the same thing from an artificial intelligence generator. In the end, we will have two types of models that we will ask people to guess which one was created by human or by machine. This step will show if the generator can produce models as creative and as efficient as the designers, and if it can fully take in charge this operation without the intervention of a human.

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  2. Flock M. ,Gettel G. , Oliveira S., (2012) Preservation and Progress: The Socio-Economic and Environmental Effects of Modernizing Zillij Production, An Interactive Qualifying Project Submitted to the Faculty of Worcester polytechnic institute. Retrieved in 20 may 2018 from
  3. Mendes P. F. ,(2016) Portugal in Morocco: Look at a common heritage .
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  5. Bonnardel N. and Zenasni F. (2010). The Impact of Technology on Creativity in Design: An Enhancement ? , Creativity and innovation management
  6. Designers meet Artisans (2005) New Delhi, India . Craft Revival Trust, 1/1 KhirkiVillage and Malviva Nagar .
  7. Nicole Schadewitz (2009) Design Patterns for Cross-cultural Collaboration, International journal of design, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK