Portugal is the land of azulejos – not only because tile decorations have been part of the country’s everyday life since the late 15th century, but above all because the azulejo is one of the most representative elements of Portuguese cultural heritage. More than a decorative practice, it gradually became a vehicle for the transformation of space and the way it is perceived. The study and preservation of tile coverings constitutes therefore a growing and increasingly important research field, warranting the existence of two specialized museums and a unique research group: the Az – Azulejo Research Network.   

Az – Azulejo Research Network is part of ARTIS, the Institute of Art History of the School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon, and specializes in the study of azulejos produced or applied in Portugal. It has been engaged for several years in the systematic identification, inventory, cataloguing, documentation, study, safeguard and promotion of azulejos.  

The group is composed of researchers from different fields and collaborates with various institutions, aiming to create a wide network for the promotion of knowledge and learning about azulejos, at a national and international level. 

The researchers at Az – Azulejo Research Network study tile coverings still found in situ, catalogue and analyse their decorative patterns, identify the depicted themes and their meanings, study the artists (ancient and contemporary), locate their sources of inspiration, work alongside institutions to catalogue their heritage or inventory azulejos that were removed, for some reason, from their original locations, analyse and catalogue old photographs, support projects by contemporary artists, monitor architectural interventions, etc.

All this information is entered into a relational database developed in collaboration with the National Azulejo Museum and the company Sistemas do Futuro and entitled Az Infinitum – Azulejo Referencing and Indexation System, an allusion to the vastness of the heritage the group is committed to. The methods traditionally employed in Art History are complemented by the novel tools of Digital Art History, so as to update the existing concepts and applications, within a free-access online platform.  

Az – Azulejo Research Network welcomes researchers, students and interns, as well as MA and PhD research projects, and collaborates with factories, artists, institutions in charge of tile heritage, publishing houses, etc. It fosters a collaborative environment where everyone can learn and investigate, bearing in mind that knowledge must be communicated, through scientific, but also outreach activities. Accordingly, apart from the articles and books published by the researchers and their participation in conferences, the network organizes a monthly seminar on azulejo studies, the AzLab, which is open to the community, along with courses on azulejo, guided tours, workshops and other activities. The group is also present in different communication channels, and especially in its social network accounts (on Facebook and Instagram).