The Metropol Parasol project, also officially named since its opening as Setas de Sevilla is a wooden and concrete pergola-shaped structure located in the central Plaza de la Encarnación in the city of Seville, in the autonomous community of Andalusia (Spain). It has dimensions of 150 meters long, 70 meters wide and an approximate height of 26 meters. Its base houses a traditional market and restaurants on the ground floor, a performance plaza and the Antiquarium archaeological museum. The structure is crowned with a terrace and a viewpoint that offers a panoramic view of the old town.
The work, composed mainly of laminated wood, is made up of a large parasol-shaped grid supported on six pillars that span both the Plaza de la Encarnación and the Plaza Mayor of the city. Each of its ribs make up a spatial distribution where each rib offers its own curvature, which gives the whole a sense of undulatory movement. Although its design is inspired by the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville, due to its fungiform profile, it soon received the name of ‘Las Setas’ from the citizens.
The project was the winner of the contest opened by the Seville City Council to carry out the rehabilitation of the plaza in which it is located. Its designer was the Berlin architect Jürgen Mayer. Due to its avant-garde design and tourist functions, it has become an icon of the historic center and the city of Seville. In January 2013, the Metropol Parasol space was chosen, among the 335 candidate projects, as one of five finalist projects for the Mies van der Rohe Prize for Contemporary Architecture, awarded biannually by the European Union and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation.
The works started on June 26, 2005. The multiple difficulties that arose over the works produced controversies and delays that tripled the expected cost of the work to 100 million euros. Finally, the Metropol Parasol was inaugurated on 27 of March of 2011 and has since become one of the main tourist attractions of the city, reaching one million visitors in its first year.
The Plaza de la Encarnación had had a large food market since the 19th century known as ‘Mercado de la Encarnación’, which was partially demolished in 1948 due to the urban rethinking of the area. The part that had remained of that market was definitively destroyed in 1973 due to its dilapidated state. This site remained unused until the 1990s, when the Seville City Council planned to build a large underground car park on it that included the rehabilitation of the space to rebuild the food market.
During the excavation, important archaeological remains corresponding to the Roman and Andalusian periods of the city were discovered, so the works were paralyzed after having already invested 14.6 million euros in them. In 2004 the city council decided to put the space back into value, for which it carried out a public international competition in order to receive ideas and projects to reorganize the space, including a food market and a plaza public and also a space intended to create a museum in which the archaeological remains found were preserved.
The idea of the contest was to create a structure that would function as a public square, but that could also contain a market, an archaeological museum and a multifunctional area. The ultimate goal was to create an iconic landmark in the heart of Seville that offered a renovating and futuristic profile that would become a tourist attraction in itself.
65 projects were submitted to the competition, from which the jury chose the so-called «Metropol Parasol», by the Berlin architect Jürgen Mayer. The construction of the structure began in 2005, although due to its great size and high cost it was subjected to multiple technical difficulties and controversies.
Work on the project began on June 26, 2005, with a planned completion date of June 2007 that was not met due to numerous problems that arose during construction. In 2007, the company in charge of the project informed the Seville City Council that the project was not technically feasible as it had been conceived by the architect, since it had not been proven that the complex structure of longitudinal projection sections was capable of supporting the weights and stresses of the structure, since the architect had only carried out a basic project that excluded technical tests, so he had not taken into account the absence of an appropriate technology to carry it out.
The city council continued the work until February 2010 the press echoed the report issued by the company, and the councilman of Presidency and Urbanism admitted that the municipality was aware of its impracticality from the report, and that since 2009 there was a solution to the problem presented. The solution was to modify the structure of the parasols, replacing the metal with laminated birch wood from Finland, which meant an increase of 25.8 million euros in its cost.
The works continued and before the end of 2010 they had already been carried out in 80%. Finally, the 27 of March of 2011 the structure was inaugurated by the mayor, Alfredo Sánchez Monteseirín. The structure was praised by multiple specialized publications.
In January 2013, the Metropol Parasol space was chosen, among the 335 candidate projects, as one of five finalist projects for the Mies van der Rohe Prize for Contemporary Architecture awarded biannually by the European Union and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation.
Description and design
The Metropol Parasol consists of six large parasols made of laminated wood that rest 26 meters high on six backlit cylindrical pillars and two concrete columns under which the elevators that give access to the viewpoint are housed. The upper parts of each parasol intertwine to form a single cover.
Its structure covers both the Plaza de la Encarnación and the Plaza Mayor, giving the complex an area of approximately 3,500 square meters. Its avant-garde architecture and characteristic, wave-like design is inspired by the design of the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville and the ficus macrophylla of the adjacent Plaza del Cristo de Burgos.
Because the profile of the structure resembles that of a set of mushrooms, citizens soon began to popularly call it “Las Setas”. This fact led to the decision in 2013 to make the nickname official and to label the work with the trademark “Setas de Sevilla”.
The complex has four levels in total: The upper level, consisting of a concrete walkway that runs through most of the structure of the parasols, is crowned with a large viewpoint that offers visitors a panoramic view of the city. Just below, the two largest sections of the complex, at 22 meters high, house a restaurant and a panoramic tour that also serves as access to the viewpoint.
Under the structure of the Metropol Parasol is the Plaza Mayor, a large diaphanous and elevated space, sheltered under the shade of the parasols, which is connected by a large staircase to the Plaza de la Encarnación. This multifunctional space is used to host events and also forms a commercial space for premises and restaurants, among which is the Mercado de la Encarnación, the heirloom supply area that existed in the same place during the 19th century.
The basement of the Plaza Mayor houses the Antiquarium museum of Seville, in which the archaeological remains found during the initial excavations that planned to carry out an underground parking in the area are exhibited and that correspond to the Roman and Andalusian periods of the Seville capital. The Antiquarium was designed by the Sevillian architect Felipe Palomino González, who participated in all the construction management of the larger project. The basement also houses an underground distributor that serves as access to the elevators that give access to the upper part of the structure.