MuCEM (Museum Of European And Mediterranean Civilizations)
By Kirsten Kiser
This parallelepiped rectangle, covered by a lace mantilla, represents a strong architectural sign in the city forming a bridge between the Mediterranean and Europe.
The museum, poised at the entrance of the Old Port, is connected by a footbridge to fort Saint-Jean, a superbly historic monument, thus creating a dialogue between the city and the Mediterranean.
Visitors can enter the museum from the dockside road or pass through the arcades and vaulted rooms hidden in the stone recesses of fort Saint-Jean, before crossing the sea via the suspended footbridge with spectacular views of the Mediterranean.
The minimalistic glass and concrete building volume is based on a square footprint fixed in the landscape by an openwork lattice which frames a second smaller volume, constituting the main body of the museum.
Hidden behind the lattice screen a series of concealed fixtures, scattering blue and turquoise across the surrounding water, gives the structure a pulsating transparency at night.
Two circulation routes; a central set of stairs and lifts or a long meandering “promenade architecturale,” in the form of zigzagging ramps, links all the levels.
Ambient lighting for the museum exhibition halls, foyer and auditorium is integrated with the ceiling support structure.
The restaurant located on the rooftop is partly shaded by the concrete mantilla.
Since 2002 Rudy Ricciotti has relied on UHPC (fiber-reinforced ultra high performance concrete), a revolutionary material that meets all the regulatory requirements for public buildings. Using UHPC was an important accomplishment as this is the first time this concrete has been used in an entire building,
This fiber-reinforced ultra high performance concrete resulting from French research, consists of aggregates, fibers and a binder. Its composition gives it three essential qualities: a compressive strength 6 to 8 times superior to conventional concrete, a perfect seal, and a capacity to mould the most diverse casts. As its name indicates, it contains metallic and/ or synthetic fibers thinner than a strand of hair that also provide excellent performance under traction. This product with “closed pores”, air and watertight – not to mention resistant to sea spray and chemical attack- is as suitable for the project design as for a maritime context.
The landscape is arid, eroded by the salt and subjected to the forces of the wind. Stripped of excess the project retains the essential: the color, the sparkle of the water, the heat and the spray.
The museum is dedicated to the discovery of the major stages of Mediterranean civilizations, addressing themes as striking as the invention and expansion of agriculture, monotheisms, citizenship and human rights, travel and major discoveries.
Rudy Ricciotti Architecte with RCT Architects Associés won the international competition in 2002.