One of the main projects surrounding the old town of Marseille as the European Capital of Culture for 2013 was the redesign of the harbour basin and shoreline promenade according to plans by Foster + Partners and landscape architect Michel Desvigne. The main attraction is an elegant steel pavilion whose burnished surfaces reflect the comings and goings on the square and in the port.
Architect: Foster + Partners
Location: Vieux Port, Marseille, France
For many years, the harbour basin of Marseille’s Vieux-Port was separated from the old town by a multilane street. With the redesign of the shoreline promenade, the historical heart of the city was made more accessible. In order to keep the quay walls free, technical installations and small service buildings are now located on platforms in the water. Traffic flow was also reorganized, allowing the street to be narrowed to two lanes. The resulting generous, unobtrusive and subtly distinctive space, measuring around 100,000 m², quickly developed into a popular piazza. On the eastern edge of the harbour basin, a light roof seems to float above the square. This 46 m x 22 m pavilion serves as shelter from both sun and rain; moreover, it is a fascinating architectural folly. Clad in highly reflective stainless steel, the underside reflects all the goings-on and intensifies the ever-changing light. Eight tubular steel props 12 metres apart support a framework made of steel profiles. The rib-like joists forming the substructure of the roof elements are attached to this frame. The supports, which have a diameter of only 27 cm for their six metres of graceful height, are clamped at the foot end and rigidly screwed to the frame with a welded headpiece. Sandwich panels consisting of stainless steel sheets filled with XPS foam board have been fixed to both the upper surface and underside of the roof. The roof’s edge, perceptible only as a fine line, reinforces the pavilion’s immaterial effect.