Foster + Partners Architects Unveil Masterplan for Marseille’s Old Port

Work has started on Michel Desvigne’s and Foster + Partners’ competition-winning masterplan for the regeneration of Marseille’s Vieux Port. The project intends to reclaim the quaysides as a civic space, creating new informal venues for performances and events and removing traffic to create a safe, semi-pedestrianised public realm. The transformation of the World Heritage-listed port is one of a series of projects to be completed in time for the city’s inauguration as European Capital of Culture in 2013.

Enlarging 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 harbour will be landscaped with a pale-coloured granite, which echoes the shade of the original limestone cobbles. The materials are hard-wearing with a rough texture, appropriate for the port setting, and the design eliminates kerbs and changes in level to improve accessibility, as well as using removable cast iron bollards to maximise flexibility.

At Quai des Belges, the eastern edge of the harbour, a blade of reflective stainless steel will shelter a flexible new events pavilion. Open on all sides, its 46 by 22 metre canopy will be supported by slender pillars. The canopy’s polished, mirrored surface is expected to reflect the surrounding port while tapering towards the edges, minimising its profile and reducing the structure’s visual impact.