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Mediating Infrastructure: A World Water Organisation for Marseille

Part 2 Project 2011
Gillian Storrar
Sarah Clayton
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK

The area of Les Crottes is a leftover fragment of Marseille, bounded by a network of hard infrastructure (highways, railways, an industrial port and an old canal), that connect the city centre to its hinterland. A legacy of the site’s industrial heyday, the infrastructure appears to have outgrown the fabric of Les Crottes, carving it into disjointed sections and blocking lateral movement through the site. Evidence of this is seen in the number and scale of abandoned buildings, hastily blocked up to prevent intrusion. The area is within the Euromed Phase 2 development zone, where plans are in place for a substantial increase in commercial and residential density via a tabula rasa approach, in an attempt to assert Marseille’s global identity. This thesis proposes an alternative development strategy, using the abandoned buildings as sites of potential, reprogrammed to create new lateral links across the site and act as catalysts to regenerate and reconsolidate Les Crottes. An institutional complex of a World Water Organisation is proposed, to provide a sustainable future for the area that capitalises on Marseille’s connection with water, and Les Crottes’ hard infrastructure.

An investigation of the site’s history fostered a reading of the ground as blocked in horizontal layers. A series of model studies explored strategies for crossing and unblocking the site, identifying spaces in which to intervene and methods of doing so (reinforce, passage, breach, vessel). Overlaying the various strategies for intervention provided a basic formwork and established key sites that needed reinforcing. The delamination of surface generated the concept of a mediating soft infrastructure that attempts to resolve the conflict between the hard infrastructure and the local fabric.

Six programmed vessels are inserted into the mediating surface, housing the core functions of the WWO: filtration plant, public exhibition centre, training centre, water control, debating chamber and desalination plant. The WWO’s water network is a series of channels and reservoirs, sometimes deep underground, sometimes revealed at the surface. The soft infrastructure cuts below and crosses over the hard infrastructure, forming a complex that benefits the local area as well as capitalising on the global links and giving Marseille global recognition.

Gillian Storrar
Sarah Clayton


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