"The world is not a rectilinear world, it is a curvilinear world. The heavenly bodies go in a curve because that is the
natural way..."

-- George Bernard Shaw

"I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein."

-- Oscar Niemeyer

Friday, 11 April 2014

13. Seville, Spain: The Giant Mushroom Building

A couple of weeks ago, my partner Heather and I climbed aboard one of Spain's many high-speed trains and zoomed down to Seville - our first trip to southern Spain. Seville is well-known for it's Moorish architecture, dating back to the 1200's, as well as the largest gothic church in the world. Depending on whose story you believe, Christopher Columbus may or may not be buried there.
It's also home to one of the strangest modern architecture sights you'll ever see. It's the largest wooden structure in the world, and is known officially as the Metropol Parasol. The locals call it Las Setas - the wild mushrooms - for reasons that are kind of obvious:

Back in 1990, the city of Seville decided to build a market and underground parking in the heart of downtown. It was a sure-fire cash cow. But in the midst of construction - and after €14 million had been spent - workers discovered ruins dating back to Roman times. Construction was frozen. Later, in 2004, the city decided to develop the area again, and held an international competition.

The competition was won by little-known German architect Jurgen Mayer-Hermann. Various delays ensued and by the time Las Setas were completed in 2011, the estimated cost of the project was €100-million. Much is made of the wooden structure's status as the largest in the world, and the fact that it's held together by glue. Less often is it mentioned that the base is concrete, the inside granite, and the waffle-like roof also held together by a zillion steel bolts.

The Metropol Parasol now houses a museum, market, restaurant, bar and mushroom-themed gift shop. At 26 metres (85 feet) high, 150 metres (490 feet) long and 70 metres (230 feet) wide, it makes an impressive site, by day:

And by night:

And if your lucky enough to see it set against an angry sky, you may get a photo like this:

But the best thing about Las Setas is that for a small fee of €3.00 (which includes an alcoholic drink) you can take the elevator up to the roof. There you can walk around a meandering open-air promenade and get a full 360-degree view of Seville from its best viewpoint.

You can see iconic structures, like the old Moorish minaret on the left:

The white-housed neighbourhoods set against the aforementioned angry sky:

Check out one of the neighbour's gardens:

Or go for one of those artsy-fartsy shots where the city is framed by the Setas' :

In addition to being a great place to watch a sunset, the Metro Parasol serves another practical purpose. As its name suggests, it provides a great deal of shade under its billowing rooftop. That's a priceless commodity in a city where summertime highs have been known to reach 52 degrees Celsius!

The sultry heat and comforting shade can make for a romantic atmosphere. Check out these two geezers:

Hey! Who you calling geezers? That's Heather on the left and me on the right. Only our bodies are aging. Our hearts and spirits are as young as ever.