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Marseille, France

Marseille Vieux Port Pavilion


Foster + Partners — Marseille Vieux Port Pavilion

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.

Foster + Partners — Marseille Vieux Port Pavilion

Enlarging the space for pedestrians, the technical installations and boat houses on the quays will be replaced with new platforms and clubhouses over the water. The landscape design, which was developed with Michel Desvigne, includes a new pale granite surface, which echoes the shade of the original limestone cobbles. Planting is kept to a minimum in favour of hard-wearing, roughly textured materials appropriate to the port setting. The design eliminates kerbs and changes in level to improve accessibility, as well as using removable cast iron bollards to maximise flexibility.

Foster + Partners — Marseille Vieux Port Pavilion

Using very simple means, the space will be enhanced with small, discreet pavilions for events, markets and special occasions. At Quai des Belges, the prominent eastern edge of the harbour, a dramatic blade of reflective stainless steel will shelter a flexible new events pavilion. Open on all sides, its 46 by 22 metre canopy is supported by slender pillars – the canopy’s polished, mirrored surface reflects the surrounding port and tapers towards the edges, minimising its profile and reducing the structure’s visual impact.

Foster + Partners — Marseille Vieux Port Pavilion

The transformation of Marseille’s World Heritage-listed harbour was officially inaugurated on Saturday during a ceremony attended by Eugène Caselli, President of Marseille Provence Métropole and Jean-Claude Gaudin, the Mayor of Marseille. The event marked the completion of the new ‘club nautique’ pavilions and a new sheltered events space on the Quai de la Fraternité at the eastern edge of the port, built to commemorate the city’s year as ‘European Capital of Culture’.

Foster + Partners — Marseille Vieux Port Pavilion

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.”

Spencer de Grey, Head of Design, Foster + Partners: “Our aim has been to make the Vieux Port accessible to all – the project is an invitation to the people of Marseille to enjoy and use this grand space for events, markets and celebrations once again. The new pavilion is quite literally a reflection of its surroundings – its lightweight steel structure is a minimal intervention and appears as a simple silver line on the horizon, but it brings a new focus, provides basic shelter and creates a venue for performances during this very important year for the city.”

Program: Regeneration and Semi-Pedestrianisation of the Vieux Port in Marseille
Appointment: Competition won with MDP/Paris in September 2010
Construction start date: March 2012
Construction end date: March 2013
Site Area: Approximately 100,000sqm in Phase 1
Gross Floor Area: Boat club 8 N° (200sqm – 300sqm)
Canopy 46m x 22m/1,012sqm
Canopy Height: Approximately 6m
Venues: 8 Club houses and platforms for the Marseille Boat Club canopy for events on Quai de Belge
Materials: Spanish granite/bush hammered and textured/beige French oak/super mirror stainless steel
Structure: Canopy:Mild steel / Boat club: Timber
Urban Furniture: Benches: Cast iron/iroko timber
Bollards: Cast iron
Bike racks: Cast iron
Bins: Mild steel/cast iron
Cladding: Canopy: Super mirror stainless steel
Boat club: French oak
Sustainability: Largely locally sourced building material