Where Old Meets New: Seville’s Plaza de la Encarnación

img_0539It’s hard to imagine what Plaza de la Encarnación would’ve looked like years ago when there weren’t six giant mushroom shaped parasols rising above the busy plaza, before it became home to the largest wooden structure in the world.

Plaza de la Encarnación was the setting of a food market (the same one that’s there today in fact), but in 1973 when their facilities needed improvement and there was talk of incorporating an underground parking space into the same area, the stalls were knocked down. An above ground parking lot temporarily inhabited the plaza until a clear building plan was made to integrate a new market, underground parking and the Roman ruins, which had been discovered in the 1990s.

img_0511The ancient Roman colony underneath the plaza was said to consist of “structures including two Late Antique houses with courtyards, a possible church, and other houses or structures in the vicinity of a later Islamic house.”

It’s quite a sight to see. And also for someone who grew up in a place where the oldest structure is probably a Spanish Mission along the coast of Southern California, the idea of walking over Roman ruins on a daily basis was sort of mind-boggling. I mean, like, come on. 

The current structure over Plaza de la Encarnación was designed in 2007 by German architect Jürgen Mayer H and construction began soon after.

It’s easy to tilt your head and imagine you’re seeing a large honeycombed spaceship descending upon Sevilla, but the structure actually includes four useable levels.

The first level (below ground) was designed so you can walk around the excavated Roman ruins and the second street-level view includes a large farmer’s market along with a couple cafes.

The third level, a raised platform below the structure, is a beautiful open space where you can really take in the massive size of the structure.

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The fourth level is my favorite. On the very top of the Metropol Parasol they have created a large panoramic deck to see the unforgettable views over the ancient city center.

Although this plaza has been open since March 27, 2011, opinions still remain divided about the structure. As someone who has no roots in Seville, I tend to have a little different perspective.

The Metropol Parasol is a (large) hint of the new in a city that steadfastly and so beautifully preserves the old and traditional. To some it looks out of place, a towering behemoth of light wood next to the muted Medieval tones of the cathedrals, cobblestone streets and apartment buildigs. But to me, this modern structure represents that young, vibrant, you-can’t-quite-place-it feel of Seville.

For a city that has seen the Phoenicians, the Roman Empire, the Arabs and all the diverse history since, it easily preserves all that traditional quality and feel, without being, well, boring. There is a deep history here that I can’t fathom having grown up in California. I mean, I thought Mission San Juan Capistrano was “old”…But now I’m walking over Roman ruins every day.

Plaza de la Encarnación is hugged by the old and traditional, but confidently represents that fresh, dynamic feel of Sevilla that you’ll never forget. It still remains one of my favorite places in to relax, people-watch and admire the old, traditional city from a more modern perspective.

This article was originally published on Andalucia Inside.

References:Arup.comsouthampton.ac.ukdesignbuild-network.com, Photo Credit: Overhours.com

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