The Creative Space: International Special continues and we find out how Neil Tominson Architects, founder has been inspired recently.
Neil Tomlinson founded his own practice in 2001 and over the last 15 years, Neil has led on design, detail and project management of a wide variety of large scale international and UK projects.
Neil, Tell us about a space that has boosted your creativity recently?
I recently revisited Seville in Southern Spain and, whilst there, went to see the Metropol Parasol, the winning competition entry by Berlin artist/architect Jürgen Mayer, which was constructed in 2011.
The context for this installation is a huge and very hot inland, irregularly-shaped square, bisecting a main road. It is flanked by buildings and is of a similar scale to San Marco in Venice. The massive sculpture seems specifically designed to overwhelm the visitor and the huge square it occupies and resembles a pure architectural college model of a cloud-like form, super-sized to fill the space.Whilst surreally over-scaled at first sight, the construction invites the visitor to explore under, over, around and through; from the roman ruins discovered beneath it at basement level to the ground floor area, inhabited by retail and an open-air market. Delightfully, the structure allows you to ascend various staircases onto a public square podium level, where you can congregate with other visitors beneath the parasol timber mesh canopy. Located a storey above the ground, it creates a shaded contemplative space over the hustle of crowds below.Then there’s further discovery, up staircases and lifts through the sculptural ‘trunks’ and out onto the canopy above, where the real reward lies: a wonderful meandering walkway around the undulating canopy landscape, with a unique view over the rest of Seville.
The Metropol Parasol reminds me of other architectural oddities / successful civic generators like the Centre Pompidou in Paris, but the design is not without its academic haters. Some parts of the construction are already looking shabby, whilst the detailing of junctions and elements (an obsession in our office!) leaves a lot to be desired. That said, as a pure concept taken through to its final form without compromise, it really has to be admired.