Seville, Spain

J. Mayer H. Architects

Subdivided Columns
Photography © David Franck


“We have a saying in our office,” says Andre Santer, project architect at Berlin-based J. Mayer H. Architects. “Democracy follows form.” The “form” to which Santer refers is the firm’s Metropol Parasol, an exuberant, 140,000-square-foot and 94-foot-high glue-laminated timber structure that has sprouted over the Plaza de la Encarnación in Seville, Spain. Built over a site once scattered with the city’s Roman ruins, the structure shelters restaurants and shops below, and includes a pedestrian path on its roof that offers expansive views of the country’s fourth-oldest city. Steel rods connect the Parasol’s wood slabs, which vary in width between 2½ inches and 1½ feet. Each steel rod helps evenly distribute the structure’s weight. Though it is at the mercy of the elements, the Parasol is not entirely unprotected; polyurethane spray-coating and ivory paint cover its surfaces, providing a shield against Seville’s summer heat, direct sunlight, and would-be vandals. “Democracy” here may be abstract, but it is no less apparent: Since the project’s completion in April, its undulating forms — along with public squares in Spanish cities as far and wide as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Bilbao — have played host to frustrated young people protesting the country’s 45 percent youth unemployment rate and perceived inadequacies of Spain’s standing government. Seville’s new icon, an outspoken aesthetic voice of its own, speaks loud and clear amidst the impassioned calls for reform.