Villa Méditerranée, Centre International pour le dialogue et les échanges en Méditerranée is a circa 9.000 square meter multipurpose building, overlooking the Port of Marseille's docks, destined to house research activities and documentation spaces on the Mediterranean.
The sea is the main unifying element of the Mediterranean world, sailed by the innumerable travels, migrations and trade; it enhances the meeting and the exchange of the communities that live in its coast . The sea is the central element of the project: the water square enclosed in the building’s interior is the new public space representing the institution.
It is not simply a basin with ornamental intentions, but rather the union, the means of contact that orients, animates, and organizes the building as a whole.
The new Villa Méditerranée, Centre International pour le dialogue et les échanges en Méditerranée is articulated between earth ad sea.
The port in which the new building is located has always been a mutable, hybrid place, open to host the most variable uses.
The water of the Gulf of Marseilles enters between the building's two horizontal planes (that of the conference hall and exhibition centre) creating a water square capable of harboring fishing boats, sail boats or simply serving as a swimming pool and moorings for small pleasure boats.
The building has been thought as a place in dialogue with the surrounded landscape (earth, city, sea…) revealing the site's values and opening up to the Mediterranean.
A cantilever of 36m is suspended at 14m from the sea level hosting an exhibition area of ca. 1500 sqm, it is enlighten by side windows, roof-lights and walkable glasses in the floor.
A conference center of 2500 smq is located underwater; here the contact with the sea is possible through portholes. A big vertical entrance hall links together the main spaces and other smaller rooms which host offices, restaurant and other services.
The new construction combines an apparent simplicity with a real richness of spaces, paths and functions. The patio is a fundamental element of the mediterranean architecture and it has been chosen as the central element in the design process. Its ability to create at the same time an interior space and a filter towards the exterior is the key point to read and dialogue with the esplanade j4 and with the entire port.
The result is a generous place, flexible and multifunctional, capable to host the unexpected.
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