Metrosol Parasol

Grandiose architectural confections seemed to have bypassed Sevilla
La Cartuja‘s, Torre Cajasol, the only visual intrusion to Sevilla‘s skyline
Cesar Pelli‘s tin trophy for a very, architecturally, traditional city
A tower of compromises: no great height or striking form, innovative facade or interesting connection with the ground

But in the historic Centro barrio, standing close-by the stately government building of the  Hemeroteca Municipal and the Archivo Histórico Provincial de Sevilla 
Traditional institutions such as the Palácio da Condessa de Labrija, Facultad Belles Artes, Colegio de San Francisco de Paula and the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Sevilla
The Iglesia de Santa Catalina, Iglesia de San Pedro and the Iglesia de la Anunciación
And not forgetting the well-worn and familiar Cafe Alcazares and nearby bar El Rinconcillo
Is Las Setas

It’s as alien, unexpected and pleasingly absurd as it could be
Its bulbous forms floating on a handful of stalks give it its culinary sobriquet; otherwise known as the Metrosol Parasol

A world away from the grand classical stones of the city and the dry, dusty, chalk-engrained bar tops of the Cafe Alcazares and El Rinconcillo
The traditional bars with their glazed, faded ormolu, timber liquor cabinets, inside bottles as old as the cabinets themselves
The starched aprons of the camareros darting between the two, who with a flourish, tally the bill written on the bar and wipe it clean with a gesture of finality when you’ve paid
Nonetheless, they sit happily, if self-consciously together, with Las Setas

A riposte to the Beaubourg Centre, Paris and a snub to all the cities seeking trophy architecture
The Beaubourg arrived, during the 70s, from a different world carving aside the old district of Les Halles
Uncompromising; it’s form determined by its purpose and respect for the traditional Parisienne urban landscape
It was no gratuitous tower pricking the sky for the kudos of the city

Las Setas by  Jurgen H Mayer does the same
Uncompromising too; it has context and respect for the old city
Simply a parasol offering protection from the scorching sevilliano sun
It bars, restaurant, museum and market difficult to see
Wrapped in its convoluting folds: sprouting, billowing, and folding in on each other
It barely rises above the surrounding building of the Plaza Encarnación and tip-toes across Calle Laraña
It’s impact more than the sum of it’s astonishing parts


But this remarkable intervention happened slowly
Before Las Setas the Plaza de Encarnación was a sleepy square where drop-outs occupied their time
Some years ago hoardings went up on the north side and the drop-outs were evicted on the south side


Not much seemed to happen
Excavations of Roman remains meant work above ground didn’t appear for some time
Slow progress
The fresh food market closed

With the markets at Feria, Triana, Arenal and Puerta de la Carne, Encarnación was an essential food-buying destination in Sevilla
Though none of them are like Borough Market
They are simply food markets

Their are no snacks, bites, delicacies or fast-food: salt beef stands, Balkan bourekas, baguettes filled with award winning sausages from Spain, France and Cumberland; neither will you find cous-cous tajines or curried rice in polystyrene boxes with plastic spoons
What you bought in Encarnación you took home and cooked yourself
Everything was raw

Sevilla, has, embraced gastronomic entertainment but it’s quite different from the day-to-day necessity of shopping
The Lonja del Barranco in Calle Arjona is the closest you’ll get to buying food in a market without having to cook it

And in the current tradition of retail theatre you can not only see the food cooked, but attend lectures, workshops, tastings and festivals
This is truly the age where the basic requirement of eating has become an art form

The old Encarnación market was an aging whale; entered through a diminutive facade on the plaza it opened out with rows of kiosks selling fish, meat, bread, fruit and vegetables
A rambling industrial shed with no frills, embellishments or palliatives for the chore of daily shopping

I took pleasure at the display of food, the seasonal varieties, the rare fish, fowl, meat and vegetables that occasionally found their way here, the vendedores and compradores

Then all at once, Las Setas, was completed with not just a viewing platform, the bars, restaurant, and museum with archeological remains, but a fresh food market

xxxxxxxx food market

The city seems to comfortably accept the intrusion of the Metrosol Parasol as it fits uneasily, but respectfully into the urban landscape
Though the architect offers no raison d’être, saying it’s a new icon for Sevilla, a place of identification and to articulate Seville’s role as one of the world’s most fascinating cultural destinations

Las Setas certainly does this

photography and text by Tim Harris



This entry was published on April 20, 2016 at 6:30 pm. It’s filed under Andalucía, Architect, Architecture, Spain, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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