Inhabitat: Was there an element of drawing upon nature for inspiration in this design?
Jurgen Mayer: We had some references from the city. One was big trees on a neighboring plaza, so we are doing the same in a built version. There are also references to the Seville Cathedral, which has this beautiful, unrelated stone roof. The structure inside of the Cathedral also kind of defines the space. We sometimes call our project an urban, democratic, open Cathedral that actually is held together by the people and the life in the center of the city.
Inhabitat: How did you get your start in architecture?
Juergen Mayer: I found a book, which had a picture of Erich Mendelsohn’s Shocken department store, in Stuttgart. It was such a beautiful building that was dealing with light, and a very sculptural expression of modern architecture in the city. It opened my eyes to the beauty of the built environment, and this building in particular took such an artistic approach to its form. At the time I was interested in sculpture, but it felt easier to work on a larger scale in my studies. I then expanded the discipline towards art, design, communication, and then, of course, architecture.
Inhabitat: Let’s talk about the Metropol Parasol. This is the world’s largest wooden structure and it just opened in Seville, Spain. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in that project and what inspired you to design it in wood?
Juergen Mayer: Metropol Parasol was a competition that we won in 2004, which was about creating a new, iconic piece for Seville that could also create a new idea for an urban space in the 21st century. What we proposed was a structure that sits on the Roman ruins, which is an archeology museum now. The Metropol Parasol brings back the food market, which was there before, and it also provides visitors with a mode to be elevated up above the horizon line of the buildings.
Besides being the largest wood / timber construction in the world, it might also be the largest one that has a glued, bonding technology. All of the joints are actually held together by a special glue that was developed about two or three years ago. While there are some nails, the steel connections are actually glued into the wood with like long fork-like steel rods. This is a very new technology, and to transfer the forces from one element to the other was actually the most innovative part in the structure of the building.
Inhabitat: Can you walk on top of it?
Juergen Mayer: Yes, it has a panoramic platform and there’s a restaurant on top. It has a very kind of seducing atmosphere up there, it’s like being on a cloud above the city.