Marseille, a new Mediterranean hotspot for innovation?
by Maria Serra, Onclaude Founder
The weather has been decidedly cool for this time of year in the Mediterranean, but Marseille is nevertheless enjoying a remarkable "summer of culture" and promises to become the next cultural hotspot in Southern Europe.
Designated as Capital of Culture for 2013, the French city, and the entire Provence region in fact, has embraced the challenge of trying to show that the feat of bringing together culture and innovation in the Mediterranean is far from unrealisable.
Paris is watching, perhaps a little curious and apprehensive at the same time, as Marseille is starting to come into its own, but it must wonder, like everyone else, what will happen when all the generous European funding dries up.
What is undeniable is that Marseille, despite still being the poorest city in France, is actually the second largest in the country and has the potential to become even bigger. Furthermore, it's bustling with young people (read: a fast-growing young population).
The Capital can be reached in just one hour with the TGV fast trains that link the city with virtually anywhere in the country and the gap in terms of services and facilities is finally starting to narrow, offering new unexpected opportunities and comforts.
Co-working was pioneered in 2007 by La Boate and new spaces have opened in the last couple of years such as a Marseille equivalent to La Ruche in Paris. La Ruche-Marseille which provides young families with a "micro-creche" (kindergarten) as well as with co-working space and services, is currently incubated by Inter-Made, a “couveuse” (incubator) entirely dedicated to social innovation projects. Another start-up venture supported by Inter-Made is Atelier Ni a workshop run by a collective of artists and designers which hire their space, tools and machines to colleagues that want to self-produce their works but do not have their own facilities.
The working-class district of Belle de Mai, in particular, which is currently undergoing significant urban renovation, is attracting an increasing number of young professionals and entrepreneurs who virtually had no presence there before.
A former 120,000m² tobacco factory has been converted into three integrated centres for creation and production, including the Media Park, part of Marseille Innovation accelerator which houses a large number of broadcasting companies, production studios, distributors and creative agencies, and La Friche (the Fallow or the Wasteland), which supports artists, organisations and start-ups working in creative fields from visual to digital arts to theatre to music.
The whole city has enjoyed a massive revamp since the mid-1990s when the "Euroméditerranée" project, which continues to this day, first started. The most ambitious urban renewal programme that Southern Europe has ever seen, the project extends over an area of 480 hectares and brings with it 7 billion Euros of investment.
Marseille and the surrounding region also boast exceptional opportunities for education. Aix-Marseille University which dates back to 1409, last year became the largest university in any French-speaking country in the world, thanks to 720-million-Euro's worth of investment. It has merged with three other institutions and now spreads over five different campuses serving about 70,000 students in total.
At the same time, Marseille cannot quite seem to get away from its heritage of violence and corruption on a level that no other city in France has ever experienced. Its sinister reputation as “a city of gangsters” developed in the 1940s and has, unfortunately, overshadowed its remarkably glorious maritime past ever since.
Marseille continues to be blighted by crime and drug trafficking in particular, but winning the title of European Capital of Culture 2013 has certainly given it the opportunity to invest in a better future. The city seems to have reached a real turning point and the excitement surrounding it is unlikely to fade anytime soon.
Watch our interview with Marco Pasqualini, Deputy International Relations Coordinator for MP2013, Marseille-Provence 2013 European Capital of Culture.
There are a lot of exciting events and exhibitions coming up that you might want to check out. Watch the second part of our interview with Marco Pasqualini suggesting all must-see summer and autumn events.
Architectones, Xavier Veilhan
12 June – 30 September
MAMO - Marseille Modulor, Centre d'art de la Cité Radieuse, Marseille, Boulevard Michelet
The artist brings his project “Architectones”, which instigates a continuous dialogue between art and architecture, modernism and modernity, to the rooftop of Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse (the space was originally conceived as a gym by the Swiss architect, but has since been completely renovated). The MAMO Contemporary Art Centre has been funded by French designer Ora Ito in partnership with Audi Talent Awards.
Un Bouquet, 5 couleurs moins une
La Pyramide, Istres (Provence)
5 July – 31 December
A site-specific installation by artist Daniel Buren in a former watersports centre. The artist is also due to create a permanent public installation for Istres’ “Hôtel de Ville” (Town Hall), which will be unveiled in autumn.
La Belle de Mai district, Marseille
6 July – 31 December
A project by Atelier Van Lieshout exploring a “new order” in urban and social organisations, featuring an array of exhibitions, debates, films, concerts and performances.
13 July - 13 August
Kulte Concept Store, 8 Rue de la Loge (old port area)
MuCEM (port area), Marseille
Invisible design is a call for projects for emerging designers and artists based in Marseille. Supported by the Popular Bank of Provence and Corsica as part of Marseille 2013 OFF programme, the initiative aims at "making the invisible visible" fostering new local talents.
Fondation Vasarely and other venues, Aix-en-Provence
10 October – 10 November
Exhibitions, installation performances, video mapping projections. An exploration of contemporary creations and new technologies.
Le Corbusier (as an artist)
Place de la Joliette, Marseille
11 October – 12 January 2014
A major exhibition on Le Corbusier as an artist, showcasing a collection of unique art pieces that he produced in the last 20 years of his career including paintings, sculptures, tapestries, lithographs, enamels, still and moving images and more. The J1 is a former 6,000m² hangar converted into a public centre for arts and culture, which hosts a 2,500m² exhibition space on its upper level, as well as a bar/restaurant with a truly breathtaking view of the port and beyond.
Salles à Lunel and other venues, Aix-en-Provence
November (dates TBC)
A film festival on architecture and urban spaces.
MuCEM, Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations
Fort St Jean (port area), Marseille
Hosts permanent collections, exhibitions, events, theatre performances, film screenings, music and festivals. This new building has been designed by Marseille-based architect Rudy Ricciotti.
Port area, Marseille
International centre for dialogue and discussion in the Mediterranean. It hosts various exhibitions and events including debates, performances, film screenings and concerts. This new building has been designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri.
Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Boulevard de Dunkerque, Marseille
A new building for the Regional Fund for Contemporary Art designed by Kenzo Kuma.
All pictures are ©Onclaude.