Photography: Foster + Partners, Edmund Summer, Nigel Young
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.
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.
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.