Not the best photo ever, but you can see the colours, at least.
Yet again, I’m squeezing in there at the last minute, on day four of my A Post a Day month. Blogging comes, er, last in priority after (in chronological order): 1) shopping, 2) day job, 3) panicking about finances, 4) collecting and feeding kids, 5) taking kids swimming, 6) going on a guided tour of a new Seville monument with an architect.
I don’t think the first five on that list would make thrilling reading – limping pitifully with a trolley, editing workies’ dreadful translations, head-in-sand, singing in car and bribery involving lentils, chasing and being chased in pool.
So let’s skip to the last one – it’s Architecture Week in Seville, which is when architects, whom I’ve always found rather sexy, show Juan Public around various buildings, some of which are usually open anyway and some not. Those on the list for curious Sevillanos this year were a church and a convent (not my bag), the cathedral roof (see yesterday’s post), Metropol Parasol (read on), Palacio San Telmo (been there, done that), and Abengoa’s headquarters, Campus Palmas Altas (tomorrow).
I’ve already seen Metropol Parasol countless times, including the 15M protests and occupation, but this was the first time I’ve visited at night. The structure, bang in the centre of Seville, consists of six gigantic waffley parasols, made of criss-crossed wood. The idea is that they provide a shady space where people can stop, chat and hang out, with concerts and other events at night.
The "Setas" when they were finished, in April this year. The flag is Seville city's.
This tour didn’t tell me anything much that I can’t read in the new fact-filled leaflet – entitled Space Metropol Parasol – like Space the Final Frontier. I think it sounds much better in Spanish: “Espacio” is a much more lyrical word than the monosyllabic, blunt “Space”.
Here are vital statistics of SMP: the (as-yet-not-inaugurated) restaurant area is at 21m height and 800m2; the walkway is 250m long, and 28.5m high at the Mirador (viewing point); the structure, which measures 150m by 70m, consists of 3500 pieces joined by 3000 knots and 16 million nails and screws. The wood used is micro-laminated Finnish pine, which apparently is waterproof, breathable and flexible. New information plaques go into greater technical depth, if you really yearn to know more (in Spanish only).
Boring technical blurb and diagrams; probably heavenly if you're an architect or an engineer.
One of the (many) big controversies when SMP first opened was that the sixth mushroom (the southernmost)’s walkway was not deemed safe enough for public use. Why so, we asked a knowledgable chap in our group, who works at the Colegio de Arquitectos in Seville (though not an architect himself, “como si fuera” – I might as well be.). Was it down to a design flaw? An error in calculations? As our guide said, each piece is different and specifically designed to carry a certain weight load (tourists tramping up and down the walkway, restaurant-goers stuffing their bellies); that’s one hell of a jigsaw puzzle. The almost-architect said he thought they’d run out of money to finish the last walkway. Considering the budget soared into the stratosphere, from 30m euros to 120m euros, I can’t see what odds another million or two would have made.
If you’re coming to visit SMP, your eating options are looking up. As our tour started late, I nipped into the new frozen yoghurt place (fat-free, low sugar, bloody gorgeous) and had a nose around.
Llaollao (pron yow yow, like a scream of pain), on the ground floor of Metropol Parasol, offers frozen yoghurt, smoothies etc.
I chose crumbled biscuits for my free topping, over healthier fruit options. A perfect combination of healthy fat-free and indulgent sweetness.
There is also a tapas bar, where you order at the counter – very “fassfood” – six euros for a racion is dirt cheap, but then sizes vary so much.
Another of Metropol Parasol's ground floor eating options. Haven't been there yet myself.
On the walkway level, there is a small bar with a few tables, called Setup – could you find a more naff name? You’ve been sent to a bar by a well-meaning friend who thinks you need some lurve in your life, and you meet a person sent by their pal – it’s a set-up. Por dios. They had a very bored-looking barman, reasonable jazz playing, and a menu with 7 euro cocktails and a few tapas (not available).
Where Gastrosol restaurant will be, the the plum panoramic spot; it is scheduled to open in December. It's very tricky taking a photo of a plate-glass window, OK?
The largest space will be taken up by Gastrosol – walls of glass looking out both sides. A restaurant where a window table will be a must for winter dinners, unless you want the full view from an outside table.
Antiquarium archaeological museum (Roman and Arab remains) wasn’t open, so we had to make do with looking through the windows – I spotted a new scale model of SMP which I can’t wait to examine in close detail, and there were also some photos from the obra, which seemed to last for an eternity.
Scale model of Metropol Parasol, seen through window of Antiquarium archaeological museum.
Laying mosaics. Probably quite fun when you start, but must be a job to try anyone's patience.
We ended up at the Plaza Mayor, the space above street level where the pro-democracy movement was based during May and June – I can’t come here without thinking of those heady days.
Banner from 15M pro-democracy protests at Metropol Parasol last May: "This isn't a crisis, it's a con."
Now it’s just locals and tourists. What struck me was that the logo, the amorphous shape of the whole mushroom structure, lends itself perfectly to all kinds of knick-knacks.
Our group finishing the tour in Plaza Mayor, with the plaque commemorating the inauguration in the shape of the criminally under-used blobby logo.
Yet there are no postcards of this iconic building, let alone souvenirs based around the SMP – mugs, T-shirts, coffee table books, DVDs about the whole construction process, models to build at home
(to keep your child busy for about the next four years). Its seems extraordinary that they haven’t yet exploited the supreme marketability (is that even a word?) of this now internationally renowned “space” – not that it’s even the “space” that all the fuss is about.
Get your act together, Sacyr. You’re missing a trick here. If you need anyone with ideas, you know where to find me.
SMP’s walkway (reached by lift) is open from 10.30am-10.30pm Sunday to Thursday, and 10.30am to 12.30om Friday and Saturday. It is free if you live in Seville (capital, ie the city) or 1.20 euro if you don’t. (Our group agreed this arbitrary entry fee is unfair on those who, like me, live very close to the city, and those who work there but live outside.)