Boeri's Villa Méditerranée: a square of water between land and sea

A generous, flexible and multifunctional place to also accommodate the unexpected

by Malcolm Clark
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Villa Méditerranée in Marseille designed by Stefano Boeri was inaugurated on April 7. The “International Centre for dialogue and exchanges in the Mediterranean” was strongly desired by the government to support the great event which sees Marseille as European Capital of Culture 2013.

A multi-purpose building of nearly 9,000 square meters, overlooking the main unifying element of the Mediterranean: the sea. And this is precisely the central element of the project: the “square of water” enclosed in the building is the new public space. It is not simply a basin with an ornamental intent, but the element of union and contact that directs, animates and organizes the building as a whole.

Villa Méditerranée is divided between land and sea. The water of the Gulf of Marseille penetrates between two horizontal planes of the building - the basement of the conference room and the outside overhanging one of the exhibition centre - creating a square basin capable of accommodating any kind of boat.

The building has been designed as a place of dialogue with the surrounding landscape that reveals the values of the site and its opening to the Mediterranean.

The exhibition spaces are located within the cantilevered volume of 36m, suspended 14 meters above the sea level, lit by side windows, skylights and glazed floors. The congress centre of 2,500 square meters, is, however, located underwater, where the contact with the sea is made possible thanks to the portholes. A large lobby binds together the main spaces and smaller ones that are home to offices, restaurants and other services.

The patio, a key element of Mediterranean architecture, was chosen as a central element in the design process. Its ability to simultaneously create an inner space and a filter to the outside is the key point to read and interact with the environment.

The result is a “generous, flexible and multifunctional place, capable of accommodating the unexpected.”

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    Villa Méditerranée 152

    Villa Méditerranée

    Marsiglia / France / 2013