Marseille Museum

Location: Marseille, France.
Program: Exhibition, Conference, Restaurant, Recreational Areas, Retail.
Type: Invited Competition With OMA New York.
Client: Museum For Mediterranean and European Civilizations, Marseille, France.
Collaborators: MOA/Julien Monforte Architects.

MUCEM is a competition entry for a museum of ‘Mediterranean and European Civilizations’ on an unpopulated pier next to one of Marseille’s most important landmarks, the Fort Saint Jean. It is a unique combination of a tabula rasa and a historically loaded site, an opportunity to create a building that thinks globally and acts locally – a museum which embraces new concepts but which breathes and lives in the timeless air of the Mediterranean climate.

The program described a kind of “museum machine” a series of completely flexible and interchangeable galleries, expressed as modules. The contents of the permanent collection were kept secret so as not to tempt the competitors with individuality. The museum was to be placed on both the pier and the fort.

Our project takes the relationship between the Mole and the Fort as its central urban theme. In order to create a context for the new building and to populate the void of the pier, we shifted the entire Museum program to the new building, making the Fort a new public park for the city. The building becomes an urban locus; the Fort becomes more bucolic counterpart.

The building itself extends the modular program of the galleries to the entire building, creating six towers with the same footprint – each attuned to a specific part of the program: permanent collection, temporary exhibition, lobby, library, offices, and conference and education center. The towers are joined back to back by a zone of services and circulation. In the other direction two ‘streets’ are created: one internal to the building connects all of the galleries, the other provides a public path through the building from the Fort to the pier.