A Gesture of Universality

architects Foster + Partners
project Marseille Vieux Port Pavilion, Marseille, France
written by Maroje Mrduljaš


The history Marseille, a multicultural port city, is characterized by the poetics and the anxiety of arrivals and departures, of luxury travels, of migrations, a fact that is clearly evident in both the urban form and the atmosphere of the city. The spectacular staircase-square, which descends from the Gare de Marseille–Saint Charles station to the boulevard Charles Nédelec and the new passenger port terminals, is thus one of Europe’s most beautiful urban spaces. At the same time, the streets of the densely built neighborhoods of the historic center are filled with languages and flavors of North Africa. The focal point of the two cities—both the migrant and the tourist—is the deep bay of the Old Port of Marseille, an area that, in the popular imagination (admittedly of the slightly older generation), may be best known for William Friedkin’s thriller, The French Connection, starring Gene Hackman.