In 2020, the French city of Marseille is set to host Manifesta 13, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art. In preparation for the event, MVRDV has collaborated with thinktank The Why Factory (directed by MVRDV co-founder Winy Maas) in unveiling “The Grand Puzzle,” a 1200-page interdisciplinary pre-biennial research study of the urban potential for Marseille.
MVRDV produced the study through deep analyses of the city, such as interviews and spatial data, culminating in suggestions for possible urban interventions. As part of this engagement, the firm worked with The Why Factory, founded as “the think tank on the future city” at Technical University Delft, who collaborated with local architecture and design schools on the study. Having received overwhelmingly positive feedback, the work will now be “contextualized, analyzed, and refined as it becomes a tool for Marseillais to imagine possible futures for their city.” In addition, the study will serve as a point of inspiration for artistic and cultural interventions both before and during the Manifesta biennial.
The commissioning of the study followed on from a similar venture as part of Manifesta 12 Palermo, with the purpose of putting the city itself on an interdisciplinary stage, and weaving the ethos of Manifesta deeply into the tissue of the host city’s society. As a result, “The Grand Puzzle” offers a “portrait” on Marseille’s current condition in comparison with other cities; including its possibilities, necessities, and complexities.
Derived from these findings, the study suggests a number of spatial interventions for the city, serving as a tool for citizens to rethink and reimagine the potential of Marseille. The study is structured in nine chapters in order to guide the reader through the discovery of “The Grand Puzzle,” avoiding the temptation to conclude with a static, simplistic view for a complex city. Instead, the study highlights the potentialities of the city in a European perspective, “finding the themes that echo the critical issues Europe and Marseille face today.”
The research project was designed to highlight, enlarge, and manifest the potentials, necessities, and beauties of Marseille. The work is an attempt to read the city in an urbanistic way, letting the contrasts and contradictions that characterize the city emerge and speak for themselves. Being outsiders, we understand that this urban analysis of Marseille is executed at a specific and short moment in time, and as a result cannot have one universal, objective description as its product.
-Winy Maas, Director, Co-Founder of MVRDV and Director of The Why Factory
“The Grand Puzzle” was developed by MVRDV and The Why Factory working in close collaboration with students from the National Higher School of Architecture (ENSA) and the National Higher School of Arts and Design of Marseille. Back in 2012, MVRDV and The Why Factory presented "Freeland" at the Venice Biennale, plunging visitors into the animated world of a city without the rules of urban planning.
Taking place between June 7th and November 1st, 2020, Manifesta 13 Marseille will consist of “an interdisciplinary program of artistic events broadly in the areas of art, urban development, contemporary culture, education, theory, research, and mediation throughout the Marseille region.”