The world’s largest wooden structure, symbol and controversy in Seville

Popularly known as Las Setas of Seville, this project of innovation of a classic square of the Andalusian city has taken all eyes since it was presented to the world, more than a decade ago. Metropol Parasol was its original name but, as happens on so many other occasions, the people won and the obvious similarity with this kind of mushroom earned it the name by which it is known far and wide. Now then: where, how and why did this symbol, which has not lacked controversy, come from? What exactly does it mean?

The renovation of the heart of Seville

setas seville

This wooden structure is the largest in the world. | Shutterstock

This curious monument arose from the need to renovate a fundamental area of Seville. This was the site of the city’s first food market, the Mercado de la Encarnación, which was built on the site of a former medieval convent called the Convent of the Incarnation. This is how this square came to be known: the Plaza de la Encarnación.

The market was in operation from 1862 to 1973. A century of life that was enough to become an appreciated element in the city and that did not disappear, not completely, when the facilities were demolished. Merchants continued to come to this place to sell their products for the next 37 years, albeit in a precarious situation. The Plaza de la Encarnación had become little more than a fenced-off lot that degraded the entire area.

In view of this, the Seville City Council decided to act. In 2004, an international competition was held to select the winner of the project that would completely remodel the space. The intention was to bring the square back to life and also to ‘put an end to the precarious situation of the Market traders’. Sixty-five proposals were submitted. This one won.

Las Setas, shining in Seville

setas seville

Walking along its walkways means getting privileged views of the city. | Shutterstock

Las Setas de Sevilla, actually, received the name of Metropol Parasol. Its creator was the German architect Jürgen Mayer, who was inspired by different elements of the Sevillian capital to give life to this work. ‘His proposal radiated Seville in every stroke,’ explains the monument’s website in relation to his choice. The centennial Ficus trees of the Plaza de San Pedro and the vaults of the cathedral of Santa Maria de la Sede in Seville served Mayer to build this symbol of the city. Not everyone likes it, as is well known, but it cannot be denied that it has brought back the lost life to this place located in the heart of Seville.

It has also broken records. This work is the largest wooden structure in the world, made as it is with 3,500 raw cubic meters of microlaminated Finnish pine wood. It should be noted, by the way, that for every pine felled for the project, three were planted in the same forests. Those responsible for the project say that the biggest challenge was the wooden roof, a structure measuring 150×70 meters, with a height of 28.5 meters. They rightly point out that ‘the lattice structure would provide the long-awaited shade in the summers of Seville’. Anyone who has been under Las Setas knows that this is indisputable, although the great stimulus is undoubtedly to walk the 250 meters of walkways, which offer a unique view of the city.

Apart from the controversy and history, today Las Setas de Sevilla fulfill, since 2010, the function intended from the beginning: to host the market. Also in this space have been gathered the Roman ruins found during the works. They correspond to the period between the third and sixth centuries. As well as an Islamic Almohad house from the 12th and 13th centuries. The space known as Antiquarium is, therefore, a journey into the past of the city, which adds to the almost futuristic experience of touring Las Setas.

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