2 views from Fort Saint Jean (old part of the MUCEM):
If ever there was an industry that embodied the phrase ‘boom and bust’, real estate is it. Since the housing bubble exploded in 2007, the average property has decreased in value by up to 20 percent. Some domestic markets have since bounced back, especially in developing countries: however, those in the eurozone continue to struggle desperately. No one is suffering more than France.
After a slight boom in 2010, the French property market is bust (again). House prices in metropolitan France have reached a three year low, while demand is waning dangerously. In January, the number of homes sold in Paris fell 12 percent – its Petite Couronne region fared even worse, with demand plunging by almost 30 percent. Bearing this in mind, it makes sense residential construction projects across the country have also withered, plummeting 17.8 percent this year alone.
Commercial projects fared little better, decreasing by 7.3 percent. Overall investment in both sectors of France’s construction industry has declined by four percent. As Francois Hollande continues to pursue ill-advised cuts that perpetuate unemployment and unattainable mortgage rates, the French property market’s three-year slump shows no signs of recovery in 2013. That isn’t the case in Marseille.
In May, the number of property sales actually rose by two percent. The increase is hardly earth-shattering: what is impressive is the seemingly resilient state of Marseille’s construction industry and the way it drives rising sales figures. While Paris has become riddled with abandoned projects and small-scale developments lacking ambition, locals in Marseille joke that, over the last 10 years, their city has turned into a never-ending construction project.
Over €13bn has already been invested in various commercial and residential developments, and in June builders set the foundations of the new H99 skyscraper. The luxury high-rise will be home to 27 floors of flats and businesses. Although it may seem unwise to build a skyscraper in the midst of a dilapidated property market, registered demand is already through the roof. Within the next year, construction will begin on yet another skyscraper just blocks away. These unlikely feats of architecture are the latest phase of the largest redevelopment project in southern Europe’s history. It’s been a long time coming.
If you build it, they will come
After the oil crisis of 1973, Marseille saw a period of rampant decline that made it synonymous with decay. High unemployment and low-quality public services gave France’s second-largest city a seedy reputation, and discouraged up-and-coming firms from investing in the area. By 1995, one in five locals were out of work.
That’s when the council decided enough was enough. It petitioned regional, national and international authorities to help it revive the city’s La Joliette district – and as the French economy had spent the previous two years expanding rapidly, all levels of government appeared to have money to blow. The plans were dubbed the ‘Euroméditerranée’ project.
Between the City of Marseille, the Marseille Provence Metropolitan Urban Community, the Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur Region and the General Council of the Bouches du Rhone, €600m in taxpayers’ money was committed to the 25-year redevelopment project. Yet this offering was dwarfed by the €2.9bn offered by private investors. Construction began in 1995, and within 10 years the programme had produced 4,000 new homes and hundreds of thousands of square metres in new and attractive office space, creating around 15,000 jobs.
While phase one of the project began in the midst of a construction boom, phase two began on the eve of a global financial meltdown. EU authorities cleared act two of the Euroméditerranée regeneration project in 2007: they agreed to allocate substantial funding for the new development. In all, organisers raised an additional €3.5bn.
These funds allowed builders to extend the scope of the regeneration project by 170 hectares, creating 18,000 new housing units. The global crisis that ensued did little to halt the progress of Euroméditerranée. By the time the regeneration programme ends in 2020, it will have created 24,000 new homes, one million square metres of office space and 150 acres of green space.
While other French cities have been unable to attract investment in major business developments for the last five years, Marseille has built two skyscrapers, a theatre and commissioned dozens of multi-million euro works of art. Planners spent €24m this year completing the first phase of renovation for the city’s 2,600-year-old port (arguably its biggest tourist attraction), and will soon start a second phase of construction worth almost twice that. With such a considerable amount of capital being invested in construction while so many other cities are cutting back, it’s little wonder Marseille was named Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2013.
An architect’s dream
Not only has Marseille’s construction industry benefitted heavily from the Euroméditerranée initiative, the city’s culture capital status has injected the area with an additional £6bn in EU and private funds to construct the wildest dreams of some of Europe’s leading architects. At the newly remodelled Vieux-Port, for example, architect Norman Foster has turned the streets upside down by constructing a colossal mirrored pavilion that transforms the port into a piece of upturned theatre.
Just down the waterfront, Italian architect Stefano Boeri has built the Villa Méditerranée, which can most aptly be described as an abandoned warehouse turned oblong inverted pyramid. Next door, the newly constructed Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations poses a demure enigma: its sparkly price tag of €190m is reflected in the way the building now drenches the city harbour in eerie blue lights by night. The brainchild of Algerian-born designer Rudy Ricciotti, the museum has been described by one critic as “a clairvoyant, untameable wild animal”. That provocative description now accurately describes the city of Marseille as a whole.
All of these projects, and around 60 others, were made possible by €6bn in international funding, and have brought dozens of new architectural firms to the city. Marseille’s new feats of architecture are expected to draw an estimated 12 million tourists this year. On top of the hundreds of businesses these projects have already attracted to Marseille over the last few years, this influx of tourist dollars should provide the boost the port city needs to overcome its historical issues of poverty.
obs to the jobless
The developments have brought work to Marseille’s traditionally jobless youth. During phase one of Euroméditerranée, the city saw a 34 percent jump in employment by generating 28,000 jobs. These jobs were created by attracting 800 businesses to settle in Marseille, including big players like IBM, DHL and Expedia. Without the city’s bold construction developments, that simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Overall, unemployment in Marseille has been reduced to 11.9 percent this year – a heavy improvement on last year, and a figure that’s slowly edging closer to the French national average of 11 percent. Place that on top of the tourist dollars the city’s new feats of architecture are bringing in, and Marseille will soon be leaving the rest of France in the dust. According to city planners, for every single euro invested, Marseille will receive six euros in positive economic benefits.
Other cities in Europe would do well to learn from Marseille’s success. Orchestrating a massive regeneration programme capable of matching the ambition of Euroméditerranée may be difficult for some – given the sparse economic climate – but if city organisers are able to formulate comprehensive and cost-effective plans of attack, there’s investors should rally behind them.
Since the Euroméditerranée launched its second phase at the onset of the global financial crisis, private firms have put nearly five times more into redeveloping Marseille than the city’s taxpayers. Real estate may still be volatile in Europe, but builders in Marseille have proven that progress doesn’t have to be reliant upon the government’s empty coffers.
Private investment in Marseille has seen France’s seediest city transformed into a capital of industry. New builds stand firmly against withering national statistics, and even house prices are, against all odds, improving. Perhaps, if other local governments pursued similar regeneration projects, France’s disastrous housing market could surge forward once more.
http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/09/08/travel/marseille-polishes-its-image.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&Marseille Polishes Its Image
Until the European Union named Marseille a European Capital of Culture for 2013, it may have been one of the most underappreciated cities on the Continent. Situated on a splendid Mediterranean harbor, surrounded by hills and blessed with an average 300 days of sunshine, a variety of museums, great restaurants and a vital, multicultural population, it has just about everything a visitor could ask for. Yet because of its rough-edged reputation, people usually preferred to spend their sojourns in the South of France in the quieter, smaller cities of Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Arles and Nîmes.
But this year, invigorated by the tremendous financial investment tied to the honor, the city of more than 850,600 inhabitants now boasts so many new cultural institutions and attractions, has converted so many industrial buildings into arts centers and has revitalized so many neglected neighborhoods that it may now be impossible for travelers to resist.
In the past, the lively port, crowded with fishing vessels and luxury yachts, was never particularly conducive to just hanging out; there was too little space. Thanks to smart city planning that called for expanded walkways and plazas, all that has changed. No less than 660 million euros from public and private funds have poured into the city and surrounding region since 2008, when Marseille received the designation. (Kosice in Slovakia is the other city selected for this year.) In Marseille, the designation has transformed many sites into cultural and architectural marvels.
Dilapidated docks have given way to handsome wooden wharves and boathouses, and sculpture exhibitions have become a regular occurrence — recently, brightly painted life-size animals, created by local artists, could be found there and all over the city. Because concerts and dance performances will be held on the main plaza through the fall, the architect Norman Foster’s firm, Foster & Partners, was commissioned to provide some relief from the elements. The result is a sleek pavilion called Ombrière. This glistening sheet of steel, suspended by eight slender poles, reflects everything beneath and near it, so that at night the sea shimmers both on its ceiling and in the harbor.
A short walk along the north side of the port to the imposing 12th-century Fort St.-Jean takes you to two high, narrow footbridges. The first leads to the labyrinthine historic district, Le Panier (the Basket), site of the region’s first Greek settlements in 600 B.C. This hilly quarter, dynamited by the Nazis in 1943 because it served as a haven for Resistance fighters, has long been a home to immigrants, who originally came from Italy and Corsica and have more recently arrived from Africa, South America and Asia.
In the historic district center, the Vieille Charité, previously an almshouse and a hospice, houses museums of Mediterranean archaeology and African, Oceanic and American Indian art. From arcaded passageways, the museums open onto a domed chapel and a peaceful courtyard with the new Charité Café and a general bookstore. To get a feeling for the district requires walking through narrow alleyways lined with cafes, restaurants and artists’ workshops, chic lofts side by side with rundown houses, in an atmosphere like Montmartre’s in Paris. Upon reaching the small Place des Moulins at the top, you will find a tree-lined square framed by pastel-colored houses, with views out to the sea. Fifteen windmills once stood here alongside cannons, placed to defend the city.
The second bridge from Fort St.-Jean connects to a spacious esplanade and two new dazzling museums, the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM), which opened in June and was designed by the architect Rudy Ricciotti, and Villa Méditerranée, opened in March and designed by the architect Stefano Boeri. Both were built with financing that came with the cultural capital designation and offer breathtaking, panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean, extending from the statue of Notre-Dame de la Garde on a hill to the south to the majestic Cathédrale de la Major to the north. The block-shaped MuCEM has a black, lattice-patterned facade and towering windows, with a rooftop terrace, garden and restaurant, which like all the dining spots in the museum is overseen by the three-star Michelin chef Gerald Passédat. The first national museum outside Paris, it plans exhibits that will combine anthropology, history, archaeology, art history and contemporary art. One of its first temporary exhibitions, “At the Bazaar of Gender,” on view through Jan. 6, 2014, tackles how gender has been perceived in the Mediterranean countries.
Also dedicated to celebrating local cultures, Villa Méditerranée is a conference, exhibition and documentation center. Its mission is to encourage cultural exchange through events like lectures, debates, performances, films and concerts. Shaped like a giant C, it has a remarkable 130-foot cantilevered overhang, suspended over an interior pool of water that can harbor boats and accommodate swimmers. Concerts, seminars and film screenings will be held in the auditorium’s underwater base, which feels somewhat like being in an aquarium. Continuing the water experience, you can take a boat near the Villa Méditerranée to the ***** that extend from the port where the French-Algerian artist Kader Attia installed “Les Terrasses,” a series of variously shaped, brilliant white cubes, which will remain on view through September.
Within easy walking distance from the museums, heading north, you come to other new centers, several of them reused industrial spaces. The 1,700-seat Silo, a former grain storage facility, now presents theater, dance and music; the Hangar J1, a converted ferry terminal, functions as an arts and community center set up for 2013, a kind of pop-up space. And the Musée Regards de Provence, in a building that was once a processing area for incoming immigrants, houses a terrific collection of art from the region.
To reach two other outstanding exhibitions requires a bus ride from the city center. Well worth the effort is the sculpture garden, unveiled in June and designed by Ito Morabito, who goes by Ora-Ito professionally, on the roof of Le Corbusier’s famous 1952 “vertical village,” Cité Radieuse. In addition to over 300 spacious apartments, the building — true to the village concept — has shops; medical, educational and sports facilities; a handsome hotel on three floors; and a marvelous restaurant, Le Ventre de l’Architecte (the Belly of the Architect), overseen by a well-regarded local chef, Alexandre Mazzia. Not far away is the Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAC), with a show, “Le Pont,” on view through Oct. 20, featuring the works of 145 artists who deal with migration and exchanges between civilizations, a recurring theme in this polyglot city.
Marseille hasn’t lost its reputation as a city burdened by crime. The Marseille region, which includes Aix and Arles, now ranks third in robberies after Paris and the region of Seine-St.-Denis. Authorities say a larger police force and more surveillance cameras downtown have reduced crime appreciably in the past year.
Just trying to see half of what’s new in Marseille takes a few days; to see all of it would take weeks. The city’s bustling cafes and restaurants offer respite when it’s time for a break; the many performances in unusual venues offer great entertainment. Expansive, sandy beaches are also not far away. The designation Capital of European Culture, created in 1985 by two influential politicians, Mélina Mercouri and Jack Lang, ministers of culture for Greece and France respectively, was meant to bring the people of Europe closer together by celebrating the key role played by cities in European culture. It would seem that it has done far more, this year turning the spotlight for all the world to see on the overlooked city of Marseille.
Marsatac is celebrating its 15th anniversary and is still going strong. It remains faithful to its original mission: to delve into the unknown, to break down preconceived notions, and to mix hip hop, electro, rock, folk and pop.
For this anniversary edition and as part of the European Capital of Culture, this rebellious music festival hits Nîmes first, followed by Marseille. In addition to its showcase of the Mix Up project, the festival will take spectators on a free electronic journey through the city in collaboration with local organisations and supported by technology, for a number of sonic blasts which will reverberate during all of September on the banks of the Vieux-Port. Overall, the programme includes more than 80 concerts during 11 nights at seven locations in two cities!
On the programme:
MODERAT / VITALIC VTLZR / LAURENT GARNIER / KAVINSKY (OUTRUN LIVE) / BUSY P – ED BANGER MEGAMIX / DAVE CLARKE / SQUAREPUSHER / THE PHARCYDE / MAGNETIC MAN / CASSIUS / TRICKY / MAYA JANE COLES / BAKERMAT / BONOBO / CARL CRAIG / BORIS BREJCHA / THE BLACK ANGELS / NASSER / FAUVE / RONE / LINDSTRØM / JON HOPKINS / JORIS VOORN / **** BUTTONS / BRETON / SEXY SUSHI / JUAN MACLEAN DJ SET / DISCODEINE / CLEAR SOUL FORCES / CASHMERE CAT / THE PROCUSSIONS / MADBEN / POLYSICS / JUVENILES / CARBON AIRWAYS / AUFGANG / ROBERT DELONG / THOMAS AZIER / STIG OF THE DUMP / THE STEPKIDS / SYSTEMA SOLAR / NEVCHEHIRLIAN / AKUA NARU / CAPE TOWN EFFECTS / ZOMBIE ZOMBIE / SUPERPOZE / SYMBIZ SOUND / STUBBORN HEART / SALUT C’EST COOL / JC SATÀN / GRAMME / SHANGAAN ELECTRO / TROUMACA / SET&MATCH / BURNING HOUSE / ST. LÔ / ANDROMAKERS / ONIRIS / ANTICLIMAX / DISSONANT NATION / HUSBANDS / DJ OOF / MISTER ELEGANZ / TÂCHES / ZELLER / LA DAME NOIR FEAT. PHRED ET RELATIF YANN / PROFESSEUR BABACAR / MIXATAC #1 BAMAKO / MIXATAC #2 ESSAOUIRA / MIXATAC #3 BEYROUTH
Métamorphoses - Act 3 – 1 to 6 October
La Ville éphémère - place Bargemon
A unique collective performance under the direction of the chef and singer Olivier Grossetête will transform the place Bargemon near the Marseille city hall. A cardboard city will be constructed by thousands of people and fueled by the energy of citizens and artists. A poetic and ephemeral creation.
Where is exactly this building in Marseille? I've never saw this edifice.FRAC
A FRAC is a regional fund for contemporary art. Each region has one but not many have headquarters.Where is exactly this building in Marseille? I've never saw this edifice.