Cathedral Without Walls

By Pamela Peterson / Published by Dwell
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Walking down the narrow cobbled lanes of Seville, Spain, I keenly anticipate vibrant Moorish tile, rows of orange trees, and more than 1,200 years' worth of various architectural styles.

Rounding a corner into Plaza de la Encarnación, a massive waffle-like structure emerges out of the medieval streets, casting checkered shadows on the centuries-old buildings.

Metropol ParasolRounding a corner into Seville's Plaza de la Encarnación, architect J. Mayer H.'s massive waffle-like structure emerges out of the medieval streets, casting checkered shadows on the centuries-old buildings.

The enormous arched edifice is called the Metropol Parasol and was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer H. Finished in 2011, it is said to be the world’s largest wooden structure—and one of the world's biggest buildings to be held together by glue.  Yes, glue. The interlocking wooden panels that comprise the structure rise from a series of concrete columns and are bonded together with an innovative adhesive, then coated with polyurethane.

Located in what was once a parking lot, the Metropol Parasol was designed to offer shade and create a setting for a market, museum, restaurants, and a panoramic terrace.  

Public opinion about the modern structure is mixed among the locals, but as a designer I was captivated by the juxtaposition of the immense "parasol" among the exquisite historical architecture of Seville.

After all, this is a city with a legacy of overlapping styles, from Roman ruins to Mudéjar minarets to Baroque palaces to the famous Gothic cathedral. In my opinion, Mayer has boldly contributed by adding a 21st-century landmark for the ages, thus capturing the spirit of Seville’s history.

"The form of this building was inspired by the vaults of Seville's expansive cathedral – I wanted to create a cathedral without walls." —Jürgen Mayer H.

Pamela Peterson

@pamelapeterson

Pamela Peterson has been a costume designer for Saturday Night Live and an Emmy award-winning TV art director for Martha Stewart Living, and recently designed the renovation of an abandoned stone house in the mountains of northern Italy. When she’s not designing, Pam is traveling the world and sharing her adventures, encounters, treasures, and curiosities on her blog, Objects.

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