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MuCEM: Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée

  • Marseille, France
  • MuCEM, Ministry of Culture
  • Competition / Research
  • 26000m2

A state-of-the-art museum that is efficient, modern and elegant, while expressing the ambitions and values of contemporary civilisation. A signature building and a new landmark on the waterfront of Marseilles that presents a fresh, original image; a new architectural language that mediates unity and difference; a composition in dynamic equilibrium.

We believe one of the key criteria for a robust civilisation is its ability to mediate unity and difference – so we proposed a strong image of dynamic multi-valency, a composition in ‘dynamic equilibrium’. This strong, unfamiliar image, without overburdening connotations, was an opportunity for the leaders and curators of the new institution to make a mark and establish a unique identity and striking cultural experience.

The principle generating concept for the symbolic form of the building is the idea of a solid cultural core from which various cantilevering projections reach out in all directions. One of these projections reaches out across the basis and connects to the historical landmark on the site, the Fort Saint-Jean. Here, the pushing out movement is complemented by the opposite movement of pulling in. The envelope is pulled through the volume, establishing a dramatic, public path that cuts through the centre of the building in a diagonal trajectory, connecting the waterfront with the podium level of the Fort Saint-Jean.

This grand gesture of connection binds together the two locations of the new museum – the Esplanade de la Mer and the Fort Saint-Jean. However, the parts of the museum are also bound together by a shared architectural language, a shared aesthetic identity. The key feature of volume pushing through the boundary of a given volume is also realised in our intervention within the fort. Here, the protrusion fills the gap in the wall of the fort, cantilevering out over the water.

Our building works with the alignments of the two strips of building mass framing the Esplanade de la Mer. The square volume offered as the head of the strip is the evident basis for our sculptural treatment of the figure, which is suspended in the transition from monolithic to articulated form.




Zaha Hadid with Patrik Schumacher

Project Architect

Stephane Hof