Mucem museum, Marseille
The Mucem – Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée in Marseille, southern France, is a multi-disciplinary museum focused mostly on Mediterranean cultures from prehistory to the present.
Encompassing a total gross floor area of over 55,000 square meters (592,000 square feet), the MUCEM is one of the world’s largest ethnographic museums.
The MUCEM complex consists of two adjacent buildings located on Marseille’s waterfront; the historical Fort Saint-Jean and a new iconic building opened in 2013 and designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti; the two buildings are connected by a 115-meter-long pedestrian bridge.
A third building, the Centre de Conservation et des Ressources (CCR) located in the Belle de Mai neighborhood, contains the storage areas of the museum and a reference library.
Fort Saint-Jean and Garden of Migrations
The Fort Saint-Jean is an imposing fortress built in the 17th century by King Louis XIV at the entrance of the city’s old port. Renovated after a design by architect Roland Carta, the fortress accommodates permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, a cafe, and a beautiful 12,000-square-meter botanical garden, known as Garden of Migrations, with typically Mediterranean trees, shrubs and flowers – including white and holly oaks, orange trees, pomegranate trees, olive trees, myrtle, milk thistle, thyme, sage, savory, and lavender, as well as a kitchen garden with tomatoes, courgettes, sweet peppers, onions, and aubergines.
Rudy Ricciotti’s J4 building
A southern French born in Algeria from Italian parents in 1952, Rudy Ricciotti is an architect influenced by Mediterranean culture like few others.
Named J4, the building designed by Ricciotti consists of two square boxes one inside the other; an outer box with 72-meter-long / 236-foot-long sides and a height of 19 meters (62 feet), and an inner one 52 meters / 170 feet per side.
The first is clad on its south-eastern and south-western sides with a quite peculiar fiber-reinforced-concrete latticework, a sun-shading skin whose texture evokes the caustic reflections of water, while the two north-facing facades are made in glass.
The internal box is completely clad with glass panels, instead.
Between the two volumes, a large gap contains two long ramps that connect all levels of the building, from the ground floor up to the roof terrace.
The inner box accommodates four levels of large column-free spaces, the floor slab is indeed supported by 309 fiber-reinforced-concrete columns, shaped like forks and placed on the perimeter of the box, and by a central structural core.
On a total gross floor area of 16,500 square meters (177,600 square feet), the J4 building contains 3,690 square meters of permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, a children’s space, a library, a 335-seat auditorium, a restaurant with a panoramic terrace, offices, workshops, and storage rooms.
The Mucem museum in the old port of Marseille with the Fort Saint-Jean on the left and the J4 building on the right; photo © C. Moirenc courtesy of Mucem
Collection and exhibitions
Amounting to over a million pieces, the collection of the museum is largely based on those of the former Musée national des arts et traditions populaires in Paris, which was moved to Marseille in 2005.
Focused particularly on cross-influences between South-European, North-African, and Middle-Eastern civilizations from prehistory to the present, the MUCEM collection comprises objects from the Mediterranean area and beyond, including historical artifacts, everyday objects, artworks, garments, musical instruments, vehicles, religious objects, photographs, books, and prints.
Entitled Galerie de la Mediterranée, on a total surface of 1,600 square meters the main permanent exhibition in the J4 building presents thematically the various cultures of the Mediterranean region by the means of pieces of art, everyday objects, models, pictures, and multimedia installations.
The exhibition is renovated completely roughly every four years.
Another 850-square-meter permanent exhibition gallery, located in various spaces in the Fort Saint-Jean, is focused mostly on the history of Marseille and the Provence region.
Program of activities, and services
The MUCEM organizes and hosts special exhibitions, conferences, seminars, talks, workshops, film screenings, concerts, and live performances.
Accessible to physically, visually, hearing, and mentally impaired people, the MUCEM complex also features three shops, two restaurants operated by Michelin three-star chef Gérald Passedat, a cafe, and a takeaway food kiosk.
View of the Mucem museum at night looking east; photo © Lisa Ricciotti – Rudy Ricciotti – Roland Carta
Schematic view of the Mucem complex, image courtesy of Mucem
Fort Saint-Jean and Garden of Migrations; photos Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
The footbridge which connects the Fort Saint-Jean with the J4 building; photo © Lisa Ricciotti Lisa Ricciotti – Rudy Ricciotti – Roland Carta
Photos by Lisa Ricciotti, Marc Biarnès, Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, and Pierre Metivier
Transverse section of the footbridge; image courtesy of Rudy Ricciotti architect
J4 building, south-west, south-east, and north-west facades; photos by Hervé, Pierre Metivier, and Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Mucem, J4 building, ground floor plan, sections, and elevations; images Rudy Ricciotti Architect
Mucem at night; photos © Lisa Ricciotti – Rudy Ricciotti – Roland Carta
The large “gap” between the inner and the outer volumes of the J4 building contains a ramped panoramic promenade; photo Pierre Metivier
View of the fork-shaped perimeter columns which form the main load-bearing structure of the J4 building, the columns are made in an ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete (UHPC) produced by French company Lafarge; photo © Charles Faye-Plumey Lafarge
Detail drawing of the fork-shaped structural columns; image Rudy Ricciotti Architect / Lafarge
Scheme of the main structural elements of the J4 building of the Mucem museum in Marseille; image Rudy Ricciotti Architect / Lafarge
Interior view of one of the exhibition spaces of the J4 building; photo © Lisa Ricciotti, courtesy of Mucem
Close-up views of the J4 building’s fiber-reinforced concrete latticework skin; photos by Ivan Herman, Marc Biarnès, Nicolas Nova, and Jean Michel Rafin
Cover image by Cilou101
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More in Southern France, from Marseille to the Spanish border
Southern France, from Marseille to the Spanish border
copyright Inexhibit 2021 - ISSN: 2283-5474