In 2004, the Ministry of Culture launched a competition for the Mucem Conservation and The source Centre (CCR) on the brownfield site of La belle de mai, near Saint-Charles station in Marseille.
The architectural practice of Corinne Vezzoni and partners/AURA was designated winner of the competition in September 2004.
The La belle de mai district, characterised by the presence of brownfield sites, already hosts the City’s municipal archives, La friche de la belle de mai and the Media Centre with its studios.
The Conservation Centre is the last of the amenities in this district, focused on cultural development and particularly accessible because of its proximity to the station.
In installing the Mucem conservation building in a radical and compact way on the site, Corinne Vezzoni shows the maximum dimensions as an echo of the neighbouring industrial masses and the base of the artillery barracks.
Its simple volume, easily identifiable even in a fleeting glimpse from a passing train, is designed to make it an urban signal but also an echo for the Civilisations Museum.
Employing exactly the same footprint as the Civilisations Museum (72 x 72 m), through a kind of sly reference, the architect has built a great monolith of rough concrete, like solid a piece of sculpted rock, to allow natural light to penetrate. The reference to the work of the Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida 1
is explicit. The coloured, poured concrete solid shell is thus cast and hollowed so that the brightness of a smooth and reflective white concrete emerges from the thickness of the building.
The major purpose of the Mucem CCR is to preserve the museum’s collections, hence the need for the reserves to maintain the right temperature and moisture levels for the items stored. This requirement is met by some fifty air treatment plants and coolers installed on the building’s entresol, with output of 12,000 m³ per hour. There is no sign of the complexity of these facilities and air networks, which each supply reserves
set aside for specific collections, maintaining the building’s monolithic architectural appearance both in the walls and roof.
The CCR houses more than 7000 m² of modern reserves, laid out on three floors, under the appropriate preventative preservation standards (temperature and moisture). These reserves are partitioned to match the size and weight of the collections,with structures capable of an operating load of 1.5 tonnes per square metre. Four small so-called “low-temperature” reserves are provided to house the most sensitive objects.
Near the entrance to the reserves, the delivery area combines with areas for manoeuvring and Handling the objects: packing/unpacking, quarantine room, equipment storage premises, preparation of objects for exhibitions, etc. An oxygen-free chamber is also provided for potentially infested objects. A paper assembly workshop with the capacity to handle this type of structure complete the layout, together with a restoration workshop and a big photographic workshop.
Apart from the handling and storage of the collections, the CCR has appropriate spaces for storing documentary collections and scientific archives, as well as a library to support research and a temporary exhibition premises.
The CCR is the first cultural amenity built and financed under the public-private partnership procedure (PPP). The cost of the building is 15 million Euros. The Ministry of Culture approached Icade, a real estate operator and subsidiary of Caisse des dépôts
et consignations, for this partnership, the terms of which resemble a 25 year leasing arrangement, in which Icade is responsible for financing, building and maintaining the building and the Government pays an annual fee or rent for the period of the contract. At the end of this partnership contract, the State recovers full ownership of the building.
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