Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Voutes of Major in Marseille, France by PietriArchitectes
July 24th, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Pietri Architectes
At the heart of the Euroméditerranée urban renewal project in Marseille, the Voûtes de la Major project faces two magnificent museums – the MUCEM and the CEREM – completed in 2013 and a high point of this extensive transformation.
Winner of the competition in 2010, in collaboration with Conservation Architect José Pasqua, the project involved restoring and converting the base of Marseille’s ‘La Major’ Cathedral.
This building has had a rather tumultuous history. With a central position in the city centre, having been designed as an entrance monument to Marseilles and to transform the city on the north side, it never fully found its place. That is until it became a crossroads and its base – the vaults – became the load-bearing structures of the motorway viaduct, enabling the disembarkation of people and unloading of goods during the golden era of the Port of Marseille. Thanks to the Euroméditerranée development project, it has regained its status. The area beneath its foundation, renamed les Voûtes de la Major (the Vaults of La Major) by architects, used to be warehouses, boat yards, etc.
Restoration of cultural + shopping facilities
The aim of this project, aside from the perfect renovation carried out by José Pasqua, whereby damaged stones were replaced, the original fountain was recovered and interior spaces were showcased, was to transform these vaults into shops spanning an area of 7000 m².
Since the competition, PietriArchitectes has proposed more than one façade design; they developed an architectural scheme capable of accommodating all kinds of businesses, but above all of enabling this large facing of approximately 400 m to fully retain its unity and purity. The very design of the vaults was driven by their ability to accommodate various businesses by allowing for the installation of any type of layout: restaurants, shops, workshops, etc. but also by their climatic location: a west-facing façade without shade from the sun in a windy corridor of Marseille.
Though the composition of the façade is heavily based on the masonry of the vaults and historical research, it nevertheless remains a contemporary composition, albeit one which was designed to be understated and timeless, yet leaving space to express the power of the sequence of vaults and not adding further architectural elements to its exceptional neighbour opposite – the MUCEM.