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The Old Port of Marseille
Marseille, France

  • project The Old Port of Marseille
  • client MPM Marseille Provence Métropole
  • architect Foster and Partners / Tangram architects
  • landscape architect Michel Desvigne
  • electrical planning Ingérop Conseil et Ingénierie
  • electrical installation Citeos / Cegelec
  • photographer Xavier Boymond

As the Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture 2013, Mar­seille has invested around 660 mil­lion euros in the devel­op­ment of a new cul­tural infra­struc­ture and has made some last­ing changes to the image of the city. Traf­fic-reduc­ing mea­sures have been intro­duced in the Old Port, the heart of the old city centre, which has now become a place for people to stroll and enjoy the sur­round­ings and views. The idea for the light­ing stems from Yann Ker­salé. Selux have devel­oped and realised a tech­ni­cally highly sophis­ti­cated light­ing solu­tion.

The place where the Greeks cast anchor and founded their colony Mas­salia” 2600 years ago has become an invit­ing urban space that has recently under­gone con­sid­er­able ren­o­va­tion. Land­scape archi­tect Michel Desvi­gne together with teams from Foster + Part­ners / Tan­gram Archi­tects have com­pletely redesigned the entire 100,000 square metre area. What had once been a quaint old port area had turned into a major traf­fic inter­sec­tion with mul­ti­ple lanes, and was cer­tainly not attract­ing people to use the loca­tion as a leisure spot any more. The ring road around the har­bour has been scaled back, the dock area trans­formed into a large square for pedes­trian and events, and a mod­ernist shel­ter from the sun that goes by the name of Ombrière” added. Spencer de Gray, Head of Design at Foster + Part­ners in London, describes the projects as an invi­ta­tion to the people of Mar­seille to again stage and enjoy events, mar­kets and fes­ti­vals in this grand space”.

The light­ing con­cept devel­oped by Yann Ker­salé lends the space a new dimen­sion. Sev­en­teen 16.5 metre and eight 23.5 metre high custom designed Olivio pole-top design lumi­naires struc­ture the space and at the same time illu­mi­nate the exten­sive prom­e­nade area right up to the water’s edge. The ultra-tall slim­line poles trig­ger asso­ci­a­tions with the masts on sail­ing ships. The lumi­naires are equipped with 90 Watt or 140 Watt Cos­mopo­lis lamps and arranged spi­rally around the upper sec­tions of the poles in dif­fer­ent sized groups. Their nat­ural, organic design pro­vides a subtle con­trast to the geo­met­ric layout of the pedes­trian square.

A major com­po­nent of Yann Kersalé’s light­ing design are the 2.5 metre high “LED Skins”: ultra-flat, reflec­tive stain­less steel hous­ings with laser-cut designs, and equipped with RGB LEDs. These clad the eight large poles in the centre of the port area, sim­i­lar to the bark on tree trunks. The result­ing, amor­phous look­ing sur­faces can be used as LED screens for dis­play­ing video art cre­ated espe­cially for this loca­tion by the artist him­self. Dif­fer­ent videos are shown depend­ing on the time of year or the spe­cific occa­sion. Images and pat­terns in light that evoke asso­ci­a­tions to flow­ing water under­score the intri­cate link between city and sea – and reflect the cen­turies-old his­tory of the cit­i­zens of Mar­seille and how they con­nect to the Mediter­ranean.

  • The distinctive Olivio family is a modern, striking, multifunctional urban lighting system, available in three different sizes with interchangeable reflectors for street and accent lighting applications. This flexible lighting system can be equipped with optical accessories such as honeycomb and ring louvres, coloured and elongation lenses offering further effects and control. Olivio Sistema, Candelabra and Floracion poles and brackets provide total freedom of design and flexible planning.
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