Marseille, The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations


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The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, which is being inaugurated by French President Francois Hollande june 2013, is the centerpiece of Marseille's turn as the European Capital of Culture for 2013, which aims to attract 10 million visitors to the city this year.
As Ricciotti later admitted, ‘When I designed the MuCEM, we didn’t know how to build it.’ The bravura footbridges could only have been done in UHPFRC (moulded steel would have been far too heavy and expensive), but a system of post-tensioning had to be devised for them too, and the assembly of their interlocking units necessitated precision to one-tenth of a millimetre and one-tenth of a degree to ensure even transmission of forces.
In interviews, Ricciotti describes the J4’s construction as a heroic battle in the manner of a corrida, a fight to the death to beat the material into shape, a race against the clock to finish on time (building began in November 2009, for completion at the end of 2012), as well as a Howard Roark-style stand-off with the authorities, who required no fewer than 11 appréciations techniques d’expérimentation (the standard French certification procedure for technical innovations, requiring the fabrication and exhaustive testing and analysis of prototypes) for the J4, including for earthquake and fire resistance.

  • @carmadruga
    Thank you Carmen. Mireille first showed me the Museum: Thanks Mireille!!! and I loved the idea of Brise-soleil, this Arabian Mashrabiya, (but before was the structure that casts a shadow, the PERSIANS!!!)
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  • Very modern and interesting building. Thanks for this great show.
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  • @1456789
    Gracias, MUCHAS gracias Pilar. Un abrazo!
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  • Espectacular trabajo del arquitecto, ha tenido que pasar malos momentos, pero le ha valido la pena es fantastico. Tu presentación es magnífica se visualiza absolutamente todo el conjunto y por lo que he leido ahora tu eres la unica responsable de la presentación, enhorabuena por todo y muchas gracias, Pilar
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  • Thank you Bella for visit and favorite. Much appreciated
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Marseille, The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations

  1. 1.
  2. 2. The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, which is being inaugurated by French President Francois Hollande June 2013, is the centerpiece of Marseille's turn as the European Capital of Culture for 2013, which aims to attract 10 million visitors to the city this year.
  3. 3. Officials see it as a chance to transform the ravaged image of the metropolis, which was once a crossroad of Mediterranean civilization and bastion of the ancient Greeks, but is now considered one of Europe's deadliest cities. Four decades of widespread poverty in Marseille saw the rise of a powerful mob scene, including a criminal underworld of drugs, prostitution and gambling. There were 24 fatal shootings in 2012 alone.
  4. 4. "We continue to present Marseille in national and foreign media just by crime, dirt, and letting itself go. ... We forget that Marseille has a beautiful history, contributing to the rich civilization of the Mediterranean," said Bruno Suzzarelli, the museum's director. He said that the museum can help rebrand the city's image. Marseille, France’s principal Mediterranean seaport, is European Capital of Culture 2013. Of the many new buildings opening this year, by far the most prestigious is the €191-million Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, or MuCEM.
  5. 5. Conceived in 2000 as part of the €7-billion Euroméditerrannée redevelopment of the city’s docks, the MuCEM as an institution has a curious history. Its ancestor is the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires (MATP), founded in 1937 as a national museum of ethnography that collected everything from guignols (puppets) to rural interiors and regional costumes. By the end of the millennium its location in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne (far from the city centre) and its ageing building were taking their toll on visitor numbers and on the quality of displays
  6. 6. It was at this point that the authorities decided to ‘decentralise’ the MATP and move it to Marseille in the hope of achieving a brilliant symbiosis: the moribund museum would be reborn in its new setting, while the troubled regional capital would benefit à la Bilbao from the presence of a prestigious national collection in an eye-catching building
  7. 7. To this end the museum was allocated a spectacular site: the historic Fort St-Jean (13th-17th centuries), which guards the entrance to the Vieux Port, as well as the adjacent J4 pier, right on the water’s edge with sweeping westward views to the setting sun. Thirteen years, three French presidents and six culture ministers later, the MuCEM has finally opened. And more than just a French folklore museum, it aims to be a pluridisciplinary, multi-textual institution of a type never seen before.
  8. 8. The MuCEM actually occupies three buildings: as well as the aforementioned Fort St- Jean and J4, there is also another new building (by Corinne Vezzoni et Associés) in Marseille’s Belle-de-Mai quarter, where the MATP collections are conserved, and these reserves can be visited. But the main exhibitions are held down on the waterfront, partly in the beautifully restored (by François Botton, architecte en chef des monuments historiques) Fort St-Jean, but mostly, given the latter’s poky spaces and complicated layout, in the giant new J4 building
  9. 9. J4’s design was the object of a 2002 architectural competition, which resulted in general surprise when starchitects Hadid, Holl and Koolhaas were thrown overboard in favour of an almost-unknown local based just up the coast in Bandol: Rudy Ricciotti. Little-known back then, Ricciotti is now ineluctable in the French scene, partly because of high-profile projects such as the Pavillon Noir dance studios in Aix-en-Provence (AR February 2007), the Musée Jean-Cocteau in Menton (2011) and the Islamic-art galleries at the Louvre (2012), but also because of his colourful and conspicuous public persona, which has made him a media darling that many in the architectural profession love to hate.
  10. 10. Rudy Ricciotti (born 1952) is an Algerian-born French architect and publisher. He was born in Kouba, Algeria of Italian-gipsy origin and moved to France at the age of three. He studied engineering in Switzerland and he graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Marseille in 1980. He also runs a small publishing house, Al Dante, which publishes photography, essays on architecture, and poetry, including a French translation of John Ashbery He is a recipient of the Legion of Honor, the Orde of Arts and Letters and the National Order of Merit.
  11. 11. Square in plan (72 x 72m) and box-like in volume − a deliberate rejection of Gehry-esque formal contortions (dismissed as ‘bling bling’) and a gesture of humility towards the Fort St-Jean − the J4 building comprises an inner volume of 52 x 52 x 18m containing a basement auditorium and two floors of glass-fronted gallery space.
  12. 12. Around this inner box, on two sides, are wrapped bands of glass-fronted administrative spaces like sunshades, while the other two are veiled in a lacy concrete mesh, which also covers the roof, except for the open-air terrace.
  13. 13. The J4 comprises two circulation routes, one eminently practical − a central set of stairs and lifts − the other a long, meandering promenade architecturale, which takes the form of a ‘ziggurat’ of ramps running around the 52 x 52m core, behind the admin spaces and the mesh, linking all the levels from basement to roof terrace.
  14. 14. The promenade then continues from the roof onto the Fort St-Jean via a 135m-long footbridge spanning a water-filled basin, and another footbridge connects the fort to the historic Panier quarter on the hill, making the promenade grandly urban and − if Ricciotti’s wish that it be open to all comers (not just ticketholders) is observed − generous in scale.
  15. 15. Approaching the J4 building from the dockside road, you see a generic- looking glassy box, and nor are the dingy entrance hall and poky internal circulation spaces encouraging. But as you enter the galleries the magic starts. This may be the cultural equivalent of warehouse or retail space, but no supermarket was ever so soigné, Ricciotti having gone to great lengths to devise a system of floor beams that allow lighting and ducting to be accommodated within them without false
  16. 16. And then there is the Mediterranean, veiled behind its concrete mantilla (and, on sunny days, diaphanous black curtains), tantalisingly present but never intrusive.
  17. 17. Stepping onto the ziggurat ramps, you enter a quite extraordinary space, bristling with stainless-steel tie and suspension rods whose pins-and-needles ballet is dappled with shade from the concrete mesh, behind which winks and scintillates the mythical Mediterranean.
  18. 18. Arriving on the roof terrace, which is partly shaded by the concrete mantilla and serves the inevitable panoramic restaurant, you are confronted by the sensuously moulded footbridge, which shoots off across the abyss in a minimal (minimum? phallic?) marker-pen streak.
  19. 19. Once on the Fort St-Jean, you enjoy sweeping views of the J4 in its wider setting, a charcoal-grey shadow to the fort, its concrete shawl evoking not just flamenco Spain but the mashrabiyas of the caliphates, the pattern of reflected ripples on a sandy seabed, or the late-summer cracks of the Camargue mudflats where Ricciotti spent his boyhood.
  20. 20. Text and pictures: Internet Copyright: All the images belong to their authors Presentation: Sanda Foi oreanuş Sound: Toto Cutugno - Mediterraneo