The metrosol parasol, popularly known as the Mushrooms –Las Setas in Spanish–, has become the innovatively-designed architectural landmark in Seville. This ground-breaking construction is probably the most daring and stimulating project carried out in the city over last century, and the biggest wooden structure in the world. The project was intended to recover the public use of the Encarnación square, give back a grocery market to its neighbourhood and eventually to integrate it with the archaeological ruins encountered during the excavation works.
During nearly 40 years the square that housed the food market of the area was empty. The old market was demolished due to damages in the structure and it was relocated in a provisional building. During this time, the market and the area waned. In 2004, the public government finally launched a public tendering process inviting international architects to participate with the only goal to reactive the square as an urban public multifunctional space and reconnect it with the city centre.
The design of the Berlin architect Jurgen Meyer captivated the jury for its scope, ambition, and its futuristic shapes contrasting with the traditional architecture of the surroundings. The project is structured around five levels. The market with 40 stalls, located on the ground floor, has recovered its deserved splendour. Below the latter, one can admire the Antiquarium. Thanks to its transparent walkways, passers-by can enjoy the archaeological remains of the Roman period as well as an Almohade Islamic house of the S.XII and S.XIII centuries in an area of almost 5,000 m². Above the market, the Plaza Mayor is an open multifunctional space with the added possibility to be closed to the public for private events. Here you will find skaters and kids playing in the shadows of the structure. In the upper level, the scenic viewpoint will amaze you with its wide and imposing skyline of the city. The sunset is mind-boggling! Finally, the top floor serves exclusively as rental space for private events with a capacity of 300 seats.
From the very start, this complex project faced numerous architectural and engineering challenges. The main one was to define the construction material. At the beginning, the structure was envisaged to be in steel, but it was soon dismissed due to the high temperatures registered in the city in particular during the summer months. Ultimately, Meyer and his team opted for micro-laminate wood, from sustainable Nordic forests, which constitutes a lighter and more permeable material.
The design is inspired –surprisingly- by the vaults of the gothic Cathedral of Seville. Meyer got fascinated by the structure and the imposing space, and thus decided to design a “cathedral without walls” in his own words. The result, six parasols in the form of giant mushrooms with a dimension of 150 by 70 meters and an approximate height of 26 meters. The project was successfully completed in 2011 and since then its enthusiasts have only increased, seducing critics and visitors alike. Don’t miss it out!