Marseille is currently undergoing a metamorphosis. The area around the docks and the Cathedrale de la Major are unrecognisable from their bleak, traffic-ridden former being.
The old J4 dock now houses the new Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée or, more easily said, MuCEM. It will display artefacts from Europe and North Africa and has spaces for films and other spectacles along with a rooftop garden and restaurant.
The building was designed by Algerian-born architect Rudy Ricciotti. The building is a glass box, with a pedestrian ramp running around the outside, all shrouded by black filigree. The outer design is clearly influenced by mashrabiya latticework screens used in much of the architecture of north Africa to keep buildings cool.
The latticework is made of black coated concrete. The effect from outside is of metal lacework, with blue lights behind, barely discernible during the long hours of bright Provencal sunshine, but bringing the building to life at night. The glass building is exposed at the front of the building, reflecting the sun, sea and surroundings.
Jutting out of the building is a striking metal walkway, that joins this building to the renovated Fort Saint Jean, which houses another part of the collection. The old fort is, in turn, connected by metal walkway to the mainland, just a few steps away from the Vieux Port.
Sadly, I didn’t get to go inside, or try out the metal walkways and rooftop garden, as the official opening was just a few days after I left. Oh well, that’s the perfect excuse to return very soon!
Original article published June 2013.
Update September 2014: This summer I got back to see more of these new developments and I wasn’t disappointed! – you can see my walk across the rooftops and walkways here.