Marseille’s Vieux Port is one of the grand Mediterranean ports, but over time the World Heritage-listed site has become inaccessible to pedestrians and has been cut off from the life of the city.
The masterplan for its regeneration will reclaim the quaysides as a civic space, creating new informal venues for performances and events and removing traffic to create a safe, semi-pedestrianised public realm. Its transformation is one of a series of projects to be completed in time for the city’s inauguration as European Capital of Culture in 2013.
The new events pavilion is a simple, discreet canopy of highly reflective stainless steel, 46 by 22 metres in size, open on all sides and supported by slender pillars. Its polished, mirrored surface reflects the surrounding port and tapers towards the edges, minimising its profile and reducing the structure’s visual impact.
Reclaiming the quaysides as civic space and reconnecting the port with the city, the boat houses and technical installations that previously lined the quays have been moved to new platforms and clubhouses over the water. The pedestrian area around the harbour has been enlarged and traffic will be gradually reduced over the coming years to provide a safe, pedestrianised environment that extends to the water’s edge.
The landscape design, which was developed with Michel Desvigne, includes a new pale granite surface, in the same shade as the original limestone cobbles. The simple, hard-wearing, roughly textured materials are appropriate to the port setting, and to improve accessibility for all, kerbs and level changes have been eliminated.
Lord Foster: “I know the harbour at Marseille well and it is a truly grand space. This project is a great opportunity to enhance it using very simple means, to improve it with a large pavilion for events, for markets, for special occasions. Our approach has been to work with the climate, to create shade, but at the same time to respect the space of the harbour – just making it better.”
Location: Marseille, France
Architect: Foster +Partners
Collaborating Architect: Michel Desvigne, Tangram Architectes
Additional Consultants: Ingerop Mediterannee, Aik Yann Kersale, Ingerop Mediterannee
Area: 100000 m²
Client: MPM, Marseille Provence Metropole
Photo: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners