Mediterranean tiles

Our visual identity began with a designed web to express connectivity, collaboration, outputs and shared destiny, since our Programme is based on building exchanges, networking, and collaboration between Mediterranean civil society actors. As the project evolved, we decided to move on to express this through designs inspired by traditional Mediterranean tiles, illustrated through our website.

The interlocking and overlapping of tile patterns correspond to our core idea of establishing and strengthening connections and cooperative efforts in the region. These tiles are an important part of the region’s identity as their presence across the basin represents its shared cultural and historical heritage. In the past, the tiling industry contributed to trade and cultural exchange, as the various people of the Mediterranean learned from and taught each other their techniques. Today, our project aims to mimic these historic ties through a collaborative and inter-connected network, for the benefit of the Mediterranean as a whole.

We thought it fit to provide a brief exploration of the practice’s rich history as follows:

Colorful ceramic tiles have been a stable decoration in the Mediterranean for centuries, where these intricate, beautiful designs are inseparable from the overall image of the region. They can be found adorning historical palaces, mosques, churches, public facilities such as fountains and baths, and even tombs throughout the Mediterranean basin. Various methods and traditions have evolved, each unique to their locale, but still contributing to the wider identity of the practice.

Ceramic arts appeared in Ancient Greece, most notably black-figure pottery and the terra sigillata technique, which then spread through the Roman Empire to the Arabs, and cycled back to the Byzantines. Islamic tiles emerged in the 9th century and are known for their detailed geometric designs, and spreading several styles of tiling such as mosaics; lusterware which uses metallic glazes to provide an iridescent look; and cuerda-seca (dry cord), a technique that uses cords of a greasy substance to prevent glazes from mixing during the coloring process. The Moors then developed the zellige style, known for its earthly tones and complexity, which was made of fragments assembled together in shapes of diamonds and stars.

The evolution carried on back to Spain, and to much of Europe from thereon, where tin-glazing was popular and designs varied from floral arrangements to religious scenery. One technique most common in medieval Europe was the inlaid or encaustic tile, in which multiple colors are the result of different clays being cast together to create the patterns rather than paint. This way, the designs remain despite the tiles wearing down with time.

While handcrafted tiling declined in the wake of mass industrialisation, it’s still preserved in many parts of the Mediterranean among small family businesses that have inherited the craft from their ancestors. These tiles are now an expensive luxury that those interested in unique interior design seek out across the world.

This long exchange between the cultures of the Mediterranean reflects our core idea of maintaining and strengthening the historical ties between our nations.