Las Setas of Seville – A modern artistic structure in a historical city

Whether you love it or hate it, this unique and futuristic-looking structure, popularly known as Las Setas of Seville, stands in stark contrast to the rest of Seville that prides itself on world-famous historical monuments. Because it resembles mushrooms, it got its name Las Setas, which means ‘The Mushrooms’ in Spanish. However, it is officially known as Metropol Parasol because of its six umbrella-like structures, known as parasols.

The six parasols of Las Setas are connected and arranged into four levels. The underground level (Level 0) houses a museum known as Antiquarium. Designed by Felipe Palomino González – a renowned Sevillian architect who also participated in the Las Setas design – the Antiquarium is home to archaeological artifacts found in this area. The street-level (Level 1) houses a supermarket, Mercado de la Encarnación. The upper levels (Levels 2 and 3) have walkways and miradors (viewing points) for visitors to experience the 360-view of the city. There is a tapas restaurant in the central parasol.The area below the parasols is spacious and used for holding events

Designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer and completed in April 2011, Las Setas is the largest wooden structure in the world built by employing 3,500 pieces of Finnish pine (Kerto) joined by 3000 knots using 16 million screws and nails. This 26 meters high structure covers 3500 (150 x 70) cubic meters and weighs 1,300,000 kgs.

Although the Las Setas looks like an unconventional structure, the inspiration for Jürgen Mayer’s design came from a conventional source, i.e., Seville Cathedral. Beautifully designed vaulted ceilings connecting its towering columns seem to have influenced his design.

A bit of history

The site occupied by Las Setas is known as the Plaza de La Encarnación, which used to be the city center of old Seville, with a long history dating back to Roman times. It is apparent from the archeological artifacts found in this area that the Romans built their houses and industries in this area. The Almohads, a Moorish dynasty from North Africa who took over the city in 1248, also built houses that were part of their palaces.

The Plaza de La Encarnación got its name from the convent of the Incarnation of the Augustinian Religions that existed in this site for more than 200 years. It was built in 1591 and destroyed in 1810 by Napoleon’s army.

The ancient history of the Plaza de La Encarnación lay hidden for a long time until 2003 when the city council of Seville decided to build a plaza with an underground parking garage. The excavation for this garage led to the discovery of ancient ruins, which resulted in the city council abandoning the plan to construct the plaza.

Soon after, the city council announced an international competition to redesign the Plaza de La Encarnación in such as way that the ruins underneath are preserved. The German architect Jürgen Mayer won the competition, and the rest is history. The construction based on his design began in 2005, and as mentioned before, ended in April 2011.

Stunning views at the street level

Las Setas is an imposing structure and awesome sight to watch. At night, it is lit by colorful lights that make it appear like an alien ship. The street level (Level 1) houses a supermarket, Mercado de la Encarnación. There is a tapas restaurant in the central parasol. The area below the parasols is spacious and used for holding events.

Experience the 360-degree view of Seville at the upper levels

The upper levels (Levels 2 and 3) have walkways and miradors (viewing points) for visitors to experience the 360-view of the city. Visitors can climb and walk the paths on the upper levels and get a 360-degree view of Seville. Many prominent landmarks of Seville, including La Giralda, Seville Cathedral, Plaza de Espana, are visible from different vantage points. There are curved walkways that enable visitors to move from the elevator exit (21 meters) to the highest viewing point (28.5 meters).

Panoramic Views

The top left image shows the Iglesia de la Anunciación (Church of the Annunciation) at the near end. This church is on Calle Laraña, located next to the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Seville.

The tall building on the top right image is the Seville Tower, an office building with 40 floors that includes a shopping complex and a five star hotel. Designed by the Argentine architect César Pelli – who also designed many world’s tallest skyscrapers, including Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur – this elliptical-shaped building is the tallest in Andalusia.

The two towers on the left side of the bottom left image belong to the Plaza de España, a grand semi-circular building with a canal in front. Built at the two ends of this building are the two imposing towers that are seen in this image. The yellowish structure near the center of the image is the Iglesia de Santa Cruz, a Catholic church located on Mateos Gago Street in Barrio Santa Cruz. Built in the 18th century, the Iglesia de Santa Cruz is the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Santa Cruz.

The tower you see in the bottom right image is an iconic landmark of Seville, La Giralda, the bell fry of the Seville Cathedral, which is behind La Giralda.

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