This amazing structure in Plaza de la Encarnación has enchanted us from the moment of our arrival in Seville. We have scores of photos taken in all weathers and at all times of the day. Each time we strolled past on the way to the market or the flea market or to one of our favourite cafes/bodegas, we snapped another view.
Officially the structure is called the Metropol Parasol but it is more commonly known as “Las Setas” (Spanish for mushrooms). It attracts plenty of visitors seeking shade in the summer or just somewhere to sit and contemplate; thousands of photographers have snapped their cameras day and night here, just like us - upstairs on the top level the best 360’ views of the city can be seen; and families gather here after school - it’s a veritable playground for children who enjoy sliding down the smooth surfaces of the support pillars, and we’ve even seen trick cyclists , skateboarders and roller skaters honing their skills on the long flights of steps up to the middle level.
The Plaza used to be a marketplace. It fell into disrepair in the 1970’s. A new market was planned in 1990’s with an underground parking but during the excavations remains of Roman and Andalusian houses were discovered and the project ground to a halt. An archaeological museum seemed appropriate to display the extensive Roman and Moorish remains. With this in mind the city council launched a competition for a redesign of the market square, with the requirement that it should accommodate the museum as well as the market hall. Out of 65 participants, the modern design dubbed 'Metropol Parasol' by the Berlin architect Jurgen Mayer H. was chosen.
Construction of the Parasol started in 2005 but hit some technical, structural problems and the development of Plaza de la Encarnación stalled again for several years. It wasn’t until March 27, 2011 after the design was modified that it was finally completed and opened. The technical problems however resulted in serious cost overruns at a time when Spain was in a deep recession
The canopy-like structure of the Metropol Parasol rests on just a handful of large pillars, which act like trunks from where the tree-like 'parasols' rise. Made from wood, concrete and steel on four levels and covering a large part of the square it’s an impressive, if quite controversial structure. The lower levels of the building contain the Antiquarium (archaeological museum) of seven houses with mosaic floors, columns and wells, fish salting vats, and various streets dating from the first century BC to the 12th century AD. Elevators in the concrete columns bring visitors to the rooftop where winding walkways lead to a platform with magnificent views over the city.
But at night this incredible structure comes to life and scores of people make their way to the rooftop for the sunset and the purple glow from the pillars. There is a cafe at this level and extensive walkways. Photographers may need to know that that these walkways are made of metal and vibrate and wobble with every footstep. They are open until 11pm. So go late for those long exposure photos - it's worth the wait.
The view of the Cathedral is stunning from up here. The Giralda (the Moorish Tower), the tallest building in Seville for more than 800 years, bacame an obsession of mine during this trip. After I have edited the 1000+ photos there may even be a condensed blog about it!
We were so fortunate that our ground floor apartment where we were staying was only a 2 minute walk from Las Setas, it certainly afforded us the opportunity to slip out at any time of day or night to photograph the structure and also the "going's on".