Friday fotos: curves

Friday photos – or #frifotos – is something I look at with great interest, without ever managing to take part in (story of my life).

But this week’s theme, Curves, was screaming out to be illustrated with some shots of Metropol Parasol, our mushroom-like waffles shades here in Seville which were finally finished last year after endless delays and controversy.

The entire raison d’etre of this structure is curves – sinuous, winding buildings which undulate around a square space lined with rectangular buildings. Designed by German architect Jurgen Mayer-Hermann, Metropol Parasol is the largest wooden structure in the world, at 150m x 20m x 25m. When Sevillanos finally got to see it, they were divided between forward-thinking marvel, bringing their city into the 21st century, and hideous carbuncle with no place in a historic gem like Seville.

Once you climb up to the walkway, it’s hard not to be convinced. It all feels so smooth and flowing; not a hard edge in sight. And the views down those snaky paths… superb. Back down on ground level, even the flowerbeds are rounded.

And just in case you’re left in any doubt as to its curviness, here’s official confirmation – the plaque celebrating its official inauguration. You could almost say it’s a Barbapapa. And you can’t get curvier than that, can you?

Mushrooms and frozen yoghurt

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.)

These are a few of my favourite… places in Seville

Garden of Casa de Pilatos.

I have been toying with writing a post about the challenges of combining social media, writing and children, but guess what? I never got around to it. Because of the aforementioned three items. So instead, here are some of my favourite buildings in Seville, and details thereof. I had the idea when I saw a post on Tara Bradford’s excellent blog; sometimes things you take for granted, and see so often they no longer seem unusual or interesting, are exactly what you should be telling people about. These photos are no great shakes, just snaps.

After living here for a weeks shy of eight years, I still haven’t seen anything like all the city – so many little narrow alleys to explore, so little time. No doubt I’ll have some more favourites in a few years, when I’ve had more minutes to while away wandering around, camera in hand – which is, after all, the best way to take photos: with no hurry, observing and not imposing.

None of these photos are recent, but none of the buildings have been knocked down, either. There are few missing, which I couldn’t find (Barqueta bridge, the kilns of La Cartuja), which hopefully I’ll be able to add soon.

The Atarazanas, the royal shipyards.

This wonderful space is used for occasional art exhibitions and concerts, and at one point was going to be turned into a conference centre. Eek. Look at those arches – they were twice as high when the Royal Fleet’s ships were built here, but the rest of the pillars are below ground now. Buried treasure. I hope someone digs them up some time, and restores them to how they should be. That was the plan when it was going to be a museum of the river’s history, but that didn’t work out. Money, as ever.

Puerta del Perdon, Cathedral.

The Gate of Forgiveness, just the original part from the mosque-era shown here. It led to the Patio de Naranjos, where the Muslim faithful would wash before going in to pray. Look at that carving and the scalloped edge. Countless tourists pass through here – compared to the Atarazanas. I met my husband within sight of it, and he wooed me directly opposite – how can you not fall for someone, looking at this?

Muralla, fortified city wall, and tower.

I used to live just behind this wall, and I walked my dog along by it for years. I grew to love it, its texture and the feeling of inclusion within the city which it gave me. Sadly, the wall is not well maintained, and is crumbling in places. Like the Atarazanas, there’s as much of the walls below ground as there is above it. More hidden intrigue. I just love Seville.

Patio of Casa de Pilatos.

I visited this wonderful palace during my first week in Seville – I’d emailed and delivered my CV, and was waiting for job interviews. One of the welcome oases of calm and cool from the hot city. It’s a funny, and typically Sevillano, mix of Roman (the statue), mudejar (carved plaster arches) and Spanish Renaissance (painted balcony). The tiles are wonderful.

Patio of Convento de los Terceros.

This convent, and the palace next to it (Ponce de Leon) can only be visited by appointment, and I went with a group of middle-aged ladies, who clearly didn’t work, and who probably spent a good amount of time looking at places like this. It’s owned by the Water Board, but don’t hold that against it, as they seem to do a pretty good job of looking after the place.

Pabellon de Portugal, from Expo 29.

Noone does curved rooves like the Portuguese. Elegant, individual, and a tad oriental. Que maravilla.

Plaza de Armas, train station-turned-shopping centre.

The terrace below the massive stained-glass window belongs to the bar-club in the building, and is a fine place for a drink on a balmy summer’s evening. Inside, there are the usual chain stores, fast food outlets and a cinema, but even these can’t kill the spirit of this majestic edifice, also built for the 1929 Expo.

The Setas, otherwise known as Metropol Parasol.

And finally, and most recently, the Setas. This curving, swooping, winding structure is a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong, I love Seville’s old buildings. But there’s nothing wrong with bringing in this century, breaking the mould and shaking up such a traditional city.

Catching the wave: a march for fairer democracy

Last night I was back down at the Setas, this time with my family, partly to take them up to the pasarela (kids not overly impressed – too young – more interested in Roman ruins seen while waiting for the lift).

The other reason was for the march, organised by the Acampada Sevilla, which left Plaza de España at 7pm, went down Avenida de la Constitucion, through Plaza Nueva and up to the Setas. We managed to time it so that we were there as the marchers arrived – luckily I got a great spot on a balcony.

Policeman leads march as its moves up Campana towards Plaza Encarnacion.

As each group arrived, there were waves of cheers, applause and chanting: “Que no nos representa!” (They don’t represent us), “Lo llama democracia pero no es!” (They call it democracy, but it isn’t!), and, most vociferously “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!” (The people united will never be defeated!). It is revolutionary stuff – this must be what it feels like to a ride on a wave of popular feeling. It was almost euphoric.


All the events I’ve witnessed here at the Setas – I’m an observer, rather than a participator, albeit a sympathetic one – have had a positive, uplifting, inclusive and friendly atmosphere. People are indignant, angry and fed up. But they are not taking it out on each other. They are channelling their energy into marches, meetings (assembleas) and are devising plans for how to put their demands to the government.

Demonstrators at head of march arrive, with banner: "15M movement, for a fair and participative democracy".

Crowd greets marchers as they arrive in Plaza Encarnacion.

The amount of indignados who took part in the march varies, as always, according to whom you trust more – the police (5,000) or the organisers (10,000). I was watching for half an hour as groups of protestors streamed in from Campana, filling up the square.

Marchers from nearby town Alacala de Guadaira arrive in the square.

"No job, no future, mortgage. How do I survive?"

The acampada has voted to stay in place until next Saturday. their political agenda is being decided this week, with a Consensus of Priorities to be confirmed: of the eight original points, four will be chosen as the main ones to concentrate on.

List of eight proposals; this is being whittled down to four priority ones.

Someone I spoke to at the acampada said he reckoned the first couple would be electoral reform – the current system makes it very difficult for parties other than the main two (Partido Popular, conservatives, and PSOE, socialists) to get a seat in parliament. Also, information about candidates for political office isn’t made public, or where funding for political parties comes from. In a political culture where corruption is endemic, this does not breed trust.

The other point he reckoned would make it to the Consensus of Priorities was government economic transparency – how much of the budget is spent on what. This would make the government more accountable – one of the main aims of this movement is for the people to be more involved in democracy, and to do that, they need to have a better idea of where their money is going, and why the economy in such a mess.

"Media manipulation"

I was astonished how little coverage the march and really received in the local press today – a couple of photos (OK, one on the front page), and then a short piece tucked away on page 15. I guess the traditional media doesn’t know how to deal with this phenomenon, which is driven entirely by social media – somethign they don’t get – and has all but bypassed conventional news outlets. Either that, or they think their readers won’t be interested; or maybe it’s just not attractive to the old-school editors.

The movement is being made even more local – its main national points are the Acampadas in major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencina and Bilbao – asking each barrio for its view of the proposals. On 2 June there will be local meetings and another big march on 5 June.

You can find out more information from their Facebook page,  which also has some videos from last night’s demonstration and rally, or website.

One final thought: I saw someone refer to the Setas as Seville’s “agora” – the central square in Ancient Greek cities where people could speak in public about any topic. This concept was a central part of the world’s earliest democracy – “demos” in Greek means people, “cratos” means power. In the words of Citizen Smith, for those of you old enough to remember: “Power to the People!”

Flower power at the Setas

li>Yesterday morning the police attacked hundreds of unarmed protestors, who had been camped out in Plaza de Cataluña in Barcelona for nearly two weeks, as part of the 15M/Democracia Real Ya movement. This national network of loosely affiliated groups is demanding change to the political and economic landscape of Spain, including corruption, control over banks and the electoral system.

The reason for entering the square which they gave was that they needed to clean it, in preparation for a possible celebration if Barcelona win the Champions League Final tonight. When people sat on the ground and refused to move, the Mossos d’Esquad, the regional police force of Cataluña, laid into them with their batons and also used plastic bullets.

Video of Barcelona [youtube=]

This video has now been watched by over a million people around the world.

The number of injured was over 80, with one in a serious condition, with a punctured lung and ruptured spleen. However, strangely, there were only two arrests, which in itself says something about the uneccessary degree of police force.

Unsurprisingly, all the acampadas around Spain (currently over 70) condemned the police action, including the one here in Seville, at the Setas.

So a rally was convened at the Setas, otherwise known as Metropol Parasol, which is where the movement is based. The massive shades, with their raised plaza, provide a perfect location for big public meetings.

Crowd at rally at the Setas last night.

People were asked to wear a flower at last night’s rally, and plenty of the thousand or so who turned up did, including lots of men, to express their solidarity with the protestors at the Barcelona camp.

I had a quick wander round the acampada, to see what had changed since my last visit a week ago. There are fewer people sleeping out there – around 170, I was told – but they are more organised now, with security regulations about how to deal with police confrontations, as well as general rules for the happy existence of such a group. The mood is still upbeat and positive, if not as charged as last week. People are still busy and motivated, focussed and determined, and looking forward to taking their message out into the barrios of Seville, where they had meetings this morning.

Protocol on how to deal with the police - after what happened in Barcelona yesterday, let's hope it's not needed.

I also saw a little veg garden, an activities area, and even a board listing the kids’ entertainment programme.

Veg garden, with tomato, aubergine and courgette plants.

Sign in veg garden: "A revolutionary should be able to hear the grass growing." Marx

Activities area

Children's activities - clown, stilt walkers, concert...

The meeting followed the same idea, speakers saying their bit spontaneously, earning hand-waving, cheering or applause, depending on the audience’s level of approval. During one speech, a police car drove past with its blue lights flashing, and drew a thunderous communal expression of disapproval.

An indignado says his piece to the assembled crowd.

Shake your hands if you agree with what he/she is saying.

You can still see plenty of placards.

"I think... then I get in the way."

The French revolution comes to Seville: "The guillotine for mafiosos, politicians and capitalists."

And the star lady from my last post was still there, with an appropriate floral accessory.

Even Miss Capitalism joined in with the spirit of the occasion.

#Hashtags for Twitter.