In 1963, Pan American Airlines (Pan Am) installed a billboard on National Highway 1, which was the main road that linked Porto to Lisbon. Over 50 years later, that billboard still remains on the side of what is now an otherwise ordinary building in the village of Costa do Valado. The road is no longer a highway but the side road, N335, near the city of Aveiro, and the billboard is a prime example of azulejos – the art of using hand painted, glazed ceramic tiles to depict scenes.
In this case the tiles, made by the Aleluia ceramic company in Aveiro, shows an image of Pan Am’s Jet Clipper America, along with the slogan: “Mais jactos para mais destinos” (More jets for more destinations). Assembled in 1963, the billboard dates from the days when the Boeing 707 represented the epitome of air travel. The colours are still vibrant and impact, and the depiction of the aircraft has lost nothing of its visual attractiveness.
For many, the 6x3m panel of hand-painted tiles that advertises the former Pan American airline is considered a “true work of art” and stands as a testament of the longevity of the art of azulejos. The panel has suffered some damage over the years, with the loss of some tiles and the attachment (and clumsy removal) of posters, but it is still magnificent, and whenever I go past I have to stop and look at it in wonder.