Cota Zero, a ceramic mosaic at a public transport hub in Lisbon


The mosaic of the intervention embraces the tradition of Portuguese ceramics and the International Style of the former Luggage Hall to establish a metaphorical relationship between passengers and the Tagus River. In this way, the project goes beyond sterile functionalism to celebrate the representative nature of the shared spaces of public transport.

The intervention is located at the former luggage hall of the terminal for ferries of Lisbon, where ferries crossing the Tagus from the city of Barreiro arrive. This space has a key role as a link between the below-ground level of the Metro and the wharves of the ferry terminal. Due to its strategic importance as a connection between the two transport systems, the vestibule hosts a daily flow of about 40,000 passengers.

“Together with the underground railway systems of Moscow and Paris, the Lisbon Metro is one of the best known in Europe, in particular for its rich spaces full of beautiful decorations and a great number of exhibitions. […] With an approximate surface of a thousand square metres, the new vestibule was to be given a degree of representativeness that was both worthy of the large number of people passing through it and capable of paying tribute to the important connection between the subterranean world of the Metro and the surface of the Tagus River.”


“The vestibule ceiling and the eight columns holding it up have been covered with extruded ceramic pieces measuring 10 x 10 cm, glazed tiles that are highly representative of the tradition of Portuguese ceramics. […] The mosaic as a whole consists of twenty different types of monochrome pieces ranging from white to black by way of eighteen shades of blue. This chromatic range has made it possible to trace aquatic motifs on the ceiling, rippling out from the columns in expanding waves which also run down the surface of the columns.”


“From the lower level of passengers coming out of the Metro, the ceiling becomes a reflecting surface that announces their coming encounter with the waters of the Tagus. The gentle movement of the escalator enables passengers to gaze serenely at the optical effects of this reflection, which is both literal and metaphorical. It is metaphorical because the liquid flow of the design is a poetic allusion to the waters of the Tagus, and literal because the glazed surface of the tiles reflects the river of passengers flowing through the vestibule.”

“Hence, using totally contemporary language, which at once embraces the tradition of Portuguese ceramics and respects the International Style of the former Luggage Hall, this intervention honours the fine reputation of Lisbon’s Metro system and goes beyond sterile functionalism to celebrate the representative nature of the shared spaces of public transport.”