The disfracia (costume) addressed two polar themes:
Defence + Openness
When the occupant of the micro architecture felt fear, they could shrink down to a foetal position and be encased in a defensive shell. Feeling safe the body could open, expose itself and a cultural exchange or TRUEQUE could occur.
Taking the principle of this micro-arquitectura, we propose to explore an architectural methodology that addresses issues of perceived fear and safety that can enable a space for exchange.
In doing so we aim to develop an alternative to the aggressive gentrification that has resulted in sterile monocultures and that threatens diverse and vibrant areas of central Marsielle.
Marseille is a city of great interest to the architect and urbanist. The oldest city in France, over the centuries it has constantly changed and adapted. As a port it has traded goods and received people and cultures from all over the world. Marseille’s ability to absorb multiple cultures, adapt and grow is one of its greatest strengths but also the cause of great tension. Marseille has a reputation internationally as a dangerous city. It is seen as a city with many problems.
How ever, no matter what problems persist, no matter where you or your father was born, the residents of Marseille are proud to be Marseillens.
“Whatever culture you’re from, you’re a Marseillen”
Adrien (Art Historian)
As a group we conducted interviews with locals about their city. They described districts and explained what functions they served with in the city. Three themes were recurring:
Fear + Change + Multiculturalism
Each district was described in terms of how safe it was or had been. People’s perception of fear differed.
People talked with great pride of the multicultural make up of the city, however a fear or perceived danger was associated with districts with large immigrant communities by some interviewees.
People described how each district was changing, weather by the gradual assimilation of “Bo-bos” (Bourgeois bohemians) into traditionally ethnically diverse immigrant communities, or the rapid top-down gentrification made by government and international investors.
Marseille is city with ambitions; as European Capital of Culture, it is a city trying to shake its undesirable reputation. This is evident in the built environment, with numerous public architectural gems commissioned and built, even more so in the drastic transformation of whole streets taking place in the centre of Marseille. Formerly culturally rich streets such as Rue de la Republic have had all their residence removed to make way for regeneration, big business and gentrification.
As one of the last remaining multicultural neighbourhoods left in the centre of Marseille, Noailles is of particular interest. With a long history of receiving incoming migrants in Marseille, the neighbourhood is rich with the influences of many cultures. Interviewees became animated and excited when talking about the area. More than one described it with superlatives it in terms of the ingredients or prepared food from around the world that you could find there.
“Its like stepping into Algeria, but better”
Jean Marc (Profesor of Architecture)
However, it was also the area that the greatest fear of danger was expressed. We were warned in no uncertain terms not to go there at night by one interviewee. On the other-hand, another interviewee told us the best underground nightclubs where to be found there. Suggesting that fear is related to experience and perception.