Metropol Parasol–An adventure in Wood technology.
Likened to a massive waffle, or a series of giant mushrooms; Talked about for its controversial delay and costly construction– There are many ways in which the story of Metropol Parasol may make its way to you.
Behind all of this, lies the Largest Wooden structure in the world; And a very successful public space.
In 2015, on a road trip through Spain with my husband, Metropol Parasol, in Seville, was on my list of Architectural Sites (old and new) that were not to be missed.
We arrived at the Plaza de la Encarnacion near the city center at mid-day. Ignoring signs for the museum of archaeological remains that lay below street level, we made our way to the panoramic terraces and walkways, at the absolute top of the Parasol.
These sinuous walkways and promenades followed the curving, mushroom-like top surface of the structure.
Walking along them was an adventure–every bend and slope was different and granted unique views of the city. Additionally, all along the walkways, consistently, one experienced that heady 'top of the world' feeling.
Other designers have lauded Metro Parasol for its success in layering four programs so well (Museum, Farmer's market, a public plaza and restaurant and promenades– in that order, as you move from ground to sky). Still others have spoken about the Parasol's social activation of the square and its surroundings.
To me, personally, the most interesting attribute of this structure lies in its conquest of material limitations. Construction on the structure was delayed by years; the cost rose from 50 to close to 100 million Euros. Still, despite this strife, the result is an 85-foot tall structure constructed with wood, steel, and glue. Yes, each 1.5 m x 1.5m wood grid is held together primarily with durable, heat resistant, glue. The wood is laminated Kerto-Q LVL, a laminated veneer lumber that has a high strength to weight ratio. Coated with Polyurethane, the wood panels are weatherproof, while still having the capacity to be elastic and breathe.
While constructing the Parasol entirely from steel, or concrete would have been much less challenging, the designers, engineers, and contractors pushed materials like wood, glue, paint, and coatings to their limit, to create a one-of-a-kind structure, that stands as symbol of perseverance, design and material technology.