One of the greatest Mediterranean Ports is about to be transformed. Work has begun on the Old Port of Marseille as part of a series of regeneration projects to be completed in time for the city’s inauguration as European Capital of Culture in 2013. Based on French landscape architect Michel Desvigne’s and London-based architects Foster + Partners’ competition-winning master plan, the project will reclaim the quaysides as a civic space, creating new informal venues for performances and events, while traffic is relocating traffic to a safe, semi-pedestrianised public realm. Lord Foster stated, “I know the harbor 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 small, discreet pavilions 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 harbor – just making it better.”
In order to enlarge 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 harbor will be landscaped with a pale-colored granite, which echoes the shade of the original limestone cobbles.
Materials used are hard-wearing with a rough texture, appropriate for the port setting. Furthermore, the design eliminates curbs and changes in level to improve accessibility, as well as using removable cast iron bollards to maximize flexibility.
At Quai des Belges, the prominent eastern edge of the harbor, a dramatic blade of reflective stainless steel will shelter a flexible new events pavilion. Open on all sides, its 46 by 22 meter canopy is supported by slender pillars. The canopy’s polished, mirrored surface reflects the surrounding port and tapers towards the edges, minimizing its profile and reducing the structure’s visual impact. Reference: Foster + Partners