Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sevilla's Gigantic New Waffle in the Sky

Most visitors to Sevilla will visit la Giralda, Plaza de España, the Real Alcázar, maybe take a cruise along the Rio Guadalquivir. But how many visit the Gigantic Waffle in the Sky?
 
Opened in May 2011, the Espacio Metropol Parasol (to give it its official title) is hard to describe and almost impossible to categorise. Think Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in Valencia. Think Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao. Think gigantic undulating waffle, the size of a football pitch, suspended 30 metres up in the air. 

I'll let a few pictures speak, as I'm clearly going to struggle to find words to do justice to this place.

The view across Calle Imagen into Plaza de la Encarnación.

From the top of Calle Regina.

The Plaza level at Calle Regina end, showing three of the six concrete 'trunks'.
The 16th century Iglesia de la Anunciación provides a stark contrast viewed from the Plaza level.


Beginning to get the idea now? Variously described in the official literature as 'parasols' or 'mushrooms', even the city doesn't seem to know what it has done to itself. Formerly a dilapidated market/car-park/bus station, the Espacio Metropol Parasol (designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer) houses an underground museum of Roman and Arabic finds, ground level hosts a new market, cafes and bars, while the plaza level provides a large public space ready-made for concerts, celebrations and demonstrations. From these levels, the mushroom/waffle/parasol roof provides welcome shade from the blistering sun, and a stark architectural contrast to some of the surrounding churches and other buildings. But ride the lift to the 'Mirador' level, and even those who have complained that the waffles are 'out of place/proportion' will gasp at the sheer audacity of the landscape that awaits, nearly 30m above ground level


La Iglesia de la Anunciación now seems to float on a waffle sea.
From the Mirador level, some of the 16 million screws and bolts holding the 3,500 wooden pieces together are clearly visible. Let's hope the constructors liked doing jigsaws...

A 250m pathway provides views over the city.



The view from one of the cafés.


It took me a few minutes to register the views, so engrossed was I in the almost alien landscape that opened up in front of me. Here, the giant undulating waffle hosts a weird and somewhat wacky 250m pathway, a sort of walking roller coaster ride. It's a dream venue for photographers, so unusual are the sights and so stark the contrasts. There are more bars and a restaurant if you need a break from the sun, or time to delete some snaps to make room for more stunning vistas.

No, there wasn't a helicopter ride. A snap of one of the many information boards shows the view from above.













It won't be to everybody's taste, that's for sure. But the Gigantic Waffle in the Sky can't be ignored. Pay a visit, go with friends, then spend the next hours, days even, debating its merits or otherwise. One in our party couldn't stand the place from ground level, but couldn't resist it from the Mirador. One thing I suppose I can guarantee is a good debate. 

At least there shouldn't be too much waffle. 

Website: Espacio Metropol Parasol Sevilla  Mirador access, 10:30-00:00 Sunday-Thursday, 10:30-01:00 Friday-Saturday. 
1.35 euros admission for non-residents of Sevilla.

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