Posts Tagged ‘Villa Mediterranée’

Photo by Sam Mertens, The Guardian

Photo by Sam Mertens, The Guardian

Marseille is certainly getting lots of attention these days – just this week, The Guardian (UK) has run an opinionated article on the new developments:  read it here and don’t miss the comments below it! http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/apr/01/marseille-capital-culture-architecture?INTCMP=SRCH

Apart from saying Marseille is known as ‘Rio sur Mer’ which I have never heard, ever, he does make some valid points about bringing in ‘starchitects’ who design ‘shouty’ buildings of dubious function.  I have to say, reading the rationale behind the Villa Mediterranée leaves one no wiser as to why 70m€ was invested in this, but let’s see when we finally get in.

He alludes to the terrible social problems in north Marseille where youth unemployment runs at 40% and criminality is rampant.  I can’t imagine how families cope bringing up their kids in this environment – they seem to get sucked into crime to survive.  It’s a long-running, well-documented situation and what I can’t figure is what is being done about it. All I seem to see on TV is more police being pumped in.  Are there any programmes to help these young people into work?  How is the drugs problem being tackled at fundamental levels (ie rather than just nicking people)?  Is there any investment in these troubled areas? Maybe someone with better French than I have can comment?

Unfortunately corruption seems to be endemic in the social structures, with a recent case of police officers being arrested for complicity in drug-dealing and now the arrest of some of the département’s top public officials for allegedly trousering public funds. 

At least all the investment in Marseille is bringing work to the city: there seem to be armies of young men working on the many construction sites and road-works.  There will be work too in the new museums and hotels, and the planned shopping terraces near the Cathedral will provide jobs in retail.  Making Marseille a magnet for cruise ships is forcing the regeneration of the docks area; plus it will provide business for service industries and will bring tourists in their thousands into town. 

My question is what is the plan to link the people without work in the suburbs to benefit from the investment in centre ville?

Thanks to Juliet for finding this stimulating article.

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Thank goodness we can look forward to more of the new buildings being ready for the Year of Culture.  MUCEM will be inaugurated by President Holland on June 4th and will open its doors to the public on June 7th.  It will be free access for the public on June 7th, 8th and 9th.mucem-marseille-musee-ricciotti The fascinating documentary on France 3 on Wednesday evening went some way to explaining the complexity of the building – the two walkways which link MUCEM to the Fort St Jean and then across to the Esplanade de la Tourette had to be made from innovative strengthened concrete to withstand the pressures.  I don’t think I’ll be the first across!

Inside MUCEM, thousands of exhibits, from national museums, will illustrate the theme of Mediterranean civilisation.  Architect Rudy Ricciotti has added the distinctive concrete ‘lace’ walls, so reminiscent of eastern Mediterranean design.  I would imagine the sun shining through these will make the most amazingly pretty patterns.  There will also be a ‘restaurant panoramique’ managed by Gérard Passédat of Le Petit Nice.



So, walking bravely across the passerelle, visitors will come to the renovated Fort St Jean which was constructed by Louis XIV with its cannons directed, not out to sea to shoot at pirates, but inwards on the uppity population of Marseille.  This area will be a 15000 sq m garden which is currently being landscaped and planted up.  Good for picnics!  The fort itself will have a display on its history and will house temporary expos.

On the other side of MUCEM will be the Villa Mediterranée which opens on 15th June.

It is a strange looking building but apparently architect Stefano Boeri wanted to bring the sea rightvilla-mediterranee-marseille-2013 in at the ground floor. So the top part which projects out will have a massive exhibition space above the 2000m2 bassin, and below water will be an agora with an amphitheatre.  It will be free to go in and wander around but 7€ for exhibitions.  The purpose of the centre is to provide a place of contact for all Mediterranean countries.  There will be all manner of conferences and think-tanks.  They will also place an emphasis on the young people of the region.  Indeed the first exhibition is ‘2031 Mediterranee Nos Futurs!’  The 70m€ tab has been picked up by PACA.

Much as I am looking forward to seeing all these new buildings, I must say that I can’t wait for the Transhumance to happen. Again I have to thank the documentary on Wednesday for explaining how all these sheep, horses, goats and so on will be rounded up and herded through Provence and right into Marseille. It is utterly and splendidly bonkers.  Horses will be coming from Italy and Morocco to join in, and they will be led by a wonderful woman who stands on a black horse in a long ball-gown.  TransHumance-2

The programme showed her and her partner riding their horses through Gare St Charles to the astonishment of people waiting around for their trains.

There will be animals converging on Marseille from 3 different starting points across Provence, and they will meet up at the Vieux Port on Sunday 9th June.  This I must see!

Of course it has been sad that all the buildings weren’t ready on January 1st; and I do think the communications have been bewildering.

But so far so interesting.  The MP2013 theme is focusing on celebrating the whole Mediterranean, rather than simply Provence, which would have been the obvious thing to do; and the individual activities, and the new buildings, are very creative and stimulating. It will leave an enormous legacy which should have a powerful regenerative effect on the city.

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