A view of the Seville skyline from atop the Metropol Parasol; A view of the Seville skyline from atop the Metropol Parasol;

Timber mushrooms revive market square

The spectacular Metropol Parasol in Seville’s Plaza De La Encarnación was the result of more than seven years’ work. Its six mushroom-like parasols have now turned an isolated market square into a new neighbourhood for Seville. And, for me, the project exemplifies how architects and engineers can collaborate to deliver transformational projects.

As you might expect, building a timber mega-structure to shade the plaza and protect an archaeological site was technically challenging. We worked with a new combination of materials and a specially developed timber connection detail.

However, much more important was the collaborative effort required for a project that has to meet the needs of so many users. (The Parasol has to cater for everyone from market stallholders to archaeologists to the city authorities.) The timber structure itself is a sculptural, and at the same time engineered design. So we had to work hand-in-hand with the architect, Jürgen Mayer. And with the project team made up of at least three different nationalities, good communication was particularly important. As you can imagine, there are certainly challenging times on a project like this. But when you see the market stallholders – who endured 35 years in temporary conditions – thrilled to finally have a new place to practise their trades, it’s all worthwhile.

The cafe on the square where I always went for breakfast before site meetings has undergone a huge change: from a dark little hole behind the temporary hoarding to a bright and welcoming café. And, of course, the nicest feeling for me now is to simply meander across the open and bright square. It’s great to watch the neighbours and the growing number of tourists enjoying the fresh air, relaxing in the shade or simply relishing the atmosphere of the new public square.