European Capital of Culture: A capital experience in Marseille
Cultural calendar steams ahead after innumerable delays
Friday 12 July 2013
After a sluggish start and innumerable delays, Marseille's year as European Capital of Culture is steaming ahead. The year was nearly halfway over before some of the flagship projects finally opened. Two of the biggest happen to be neighbours on the revamped Joliette docks near the city's neo-Byzantine Cathédrale de la Major. These two enormous blocks of glass and concrete – one black, one white – have turned their backs on the city to focus on the sea.
Smoky glass covered with charcoal concrete latticework make up the Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM), the first national museum outside Paris. Permanent exhibitions showcase the history of the peoples of the Mediterranean – fittingly so, as most of these races have been absorbed into Marseille's multi-ethnic population over the centuries since the city was founded 2,500 years ago.
Even its architect, Rudy Ricciotti, personifies the mish-mash that is Marseille: he's French, of Italian origin and born in Algeria.
The latticework covering parts of the building screens a walkway around the perimeter that is open to the public. A stroke of genius was to connect this walkway to a bridge linking the ultramodern MuCEM to the 17th-century Fort St-Jean on the hilltop behind it.
In MuCEM's more audacious neighbour, Villa Méditerranée, Italian architect Stefano Boeri has created a giant chunky letter C, with the lower curve submerged under a newly created moat and the upper curve a 40m-long cantilever jutting towards the sea. Glass-bottomed patches of floor-space in the overhanging level give glimpses of the pool of water beneath. The panoramic viewpoint and permanent exhibitions are free, but the very French nature of the cultural events scheduled (debates, documentaries, concerts) could make it less inclusive for those without a decent grasp of the language.
Even with delays and ubiquitous construction cranes, Marseille could end up doing a London Olympics and surpassing everyone's expectations. That's already evident in the Vieux Port, where traffic has been tamed and the waterfront teems with people rediscovering their own city. Norman Foster's Ombrière, a giant, flat, mirrored sunshade (pictured) 6m above the ground at the water's edge, instantly captivates as people can't help but stare up and marvel at a world turned upside down. Which is exactly what the city of Marseille needed.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Does the path to true love really lie in these 36 questions?
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
- 5 Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after that Wembley Stadium rant
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Costa Book Awards: H is for Hawk named book of the year
Run DMC's Darryl McDaniels: 'Kendrick Lamar is killing it - but radios are too afraid to play him'
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Louise Mensch says 'F**K YOU' in explosive tweets about David Cameron, Saudi Embassy and the Queen over King Abdullah tributes