With the warm evening sun casting long shadows, the immense ‘Metropol Parasol’ of Seville looked truly stunning. The huge, sprawling organic structure has attracted local, national and international attention that has matched its overwhelming proportions.
The structure was forecast to cost some 50 million euro when it was conceived in the middle of the last decade, but has ended up costing a staggering 123 million euro upon completion this spring. It is quite a talking point in a city that like so many other across the world at the moment, is not quite sure how it’s going to balance its books.
The other issue of contention, as always is the aesthetics of this piece of contemporary architecture. Personally I really like the result. The city square is a mishmash of architectural styles as it is; some of the original period buildings have been torn down and have been replaced with soulless blocks. So for me the structure somehow creates not only an eye-popping focal point, but also brings a degree of cohesion to the area, pulling together all the different styles of architecture around the square, from ancient churches to bland offices. I am also glad to see something new, something striking in a city that is often regarded as conservative and traditional.
Created by award winning German architect Jürgen Mayer, the structure looks like something that has landed from another planet. Its series of interconnecting parasols create a canopy that although made of concrete, steel and pine wood, seems almost organic.
It covers the Plaza de Encarnacion well known for its local market, and provides a public space for the stallholders, an additional level for public events and above, there are elevated walkways – free to city residents or for a token 1.20 euro for visitors. Below ground, surrounded by glass walls and a glass ceiling is a museum showcasing the Roman ruins discovered during the excavations for the foundations.
The walkways float above the timber, lattice canopy, affording views across the entire city. It is a delight to see Seville from this perspective, looking towards the pavilions left behind from the 1992 Universal Exposition on the city’s Cartuja island; out towards the airport; and of course to closer sites, such as the towers of the recently restored Plaza de España, and the iconic Giralda tower of Seville Cathedral, the resting place of Christopher Columbus.
My flying visit to Seville was a real pleasure. Despite being a major destination for national and international visitors, the city retains is strong Andalusian and Spanish identity. As you know I love tapas and this has to be one of the best cities to enjoy some drinks and these distinctive, diminutive southern Spanish bites.
Needless to say I found time to enjoy some of the tapas bars in town, including the ‘Las Columnas’ (Bodega Santa Cruz) in the heart of the old district. It’s a cramped space, full of locals; you need to push to find space at the bar, but it is worth it to enjoy the atmosphere, and tasty treats like the pork in whiskey sauce. Your bill is written in chalk on the bar as it has been for decades.
Another quirky place is ‘Casa Morales’ – one bar is edged by huge vintage wine storage jars called tinajas. Here we enjoyed some excellent, thinly sliced tuna on bread dressed with a superb olive oil.
Seville is only two and half hours away, but it’s a different world – a place to lose yourself in Andalusian city life where the work life balance is still tilted in your favour.