Seville gets hot in the summer. So to provide shade, J. MAYER H. Architects built a parasol. A huuuuuuuuge parasol. A parasol that hovers over an entire swath of the city’s old-town district. A parasol that’s being billed as the largest wooden structure in the world and a catalyst for urban renewal in Seville (the site used to be a parking lot).
Countless residents and tourists pass beneath the Metropol Parasol daily. They frequent its market and shops and its podium, which holds concerts and events. They even walk on it, marching along an undulating skyway as if floating on a field of magic mushrooms. It looks terribly fun. You should visit. We’d like to. There’s one hitch, though: The whole thing’s held together by glue.
Okay, and some other stuff, too. But mostly just the same gunk we used to make popsicle-stick cabins in grammar school. Scary? Oh, yeah. Luckily, this isn’t your father’s Elmers. The glue was specially developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and tested to ensure it would be able to withstand high temperatures — up to about 176 degrees — so it doesn’t melt in the boiling Seville sun and topple the whole structure.
J. MAYER H had considered other materials, like steel and fiber-reinforced concrete, but ultimately settled on a timber-and-glue construction, because it was deemed the cheapest, safest option. Architect magazine has details:
[T]he Parasol structure was designed as a square waffle-grid system of interlocking, CNC-milled timber fastened with steel connectors and high-strength glue. …The glue… hardens inside the custom-engineered joints where steel connectors penetrate the wood.
The Metropol Parasol has been spectacularly controversial in Seville. It was expensive. It took forever (the project got underway in 2004). And it’s a flashy bit of starchitecture that happened to open just after the nation descended into a horrible financial crisis. But if it really does everything it purports to do — shade the city, renew the neighborhood, save the world (okay, not that one, though the architects’ press release does wax a little too enthusiastic) — then it’ll go down in the historical ledger as a remarkable triumph of architecture. What can’t mankind do with a little wood and glue?