Celebrating Marseilles

Monday 11 Mar 2013

Foster + Partner's commemorative Vieux Port pavilion opens in Marseille

Foster + Partner’s reimagining of the World Heritage-listed harbour at Marseilles, France has been officially unveiled. Opened by the President of Marseille Provence Métropole, Eugène Caselli, and the Mayor of Marseille, Jean-Claude Gaudin on 2 March, the new Vieux Port events pavilion has been built to celebrate the French city’s year as the European Capital of Culture.

Constructed using highly reflective stainless steel and supported by slim pillars, the new events pavilion is a simple canopy which measures 46m by 22m, and is completely open on all sides. The polished, mirrored surface of the pavilion reflects the views of the historic port and has been designed to taper towards the edges in order to reduce the structure’s visual impact.

Lord Foster said of the design: “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.”

As part of the scheme, the boat houses and technical installations located alongside the quays have been relocated to new platforms and clubhouses over the water. Another feature of the project has been the enlargement of the pedestrian area around the harbour and the removal of kerbs and level changes, which the designers say will reduce the traffic over the coming years and provide 'a safe, pedestrianised environment that extends to the water’s edge'.

Spencer de Grey, Head of Design at Foster + Partners, added: “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.”

Naomi Wilcock
Editorial Assistant

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Civic Buildings Urban design

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