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22 May 2015

Marseille, a design capital of the world?

In the Phocaean city, not one month passes without a new designer spot popping up somewhere. The city accelerates timelines in order to continue its forced march towards modernity. And its all a great success because its achievements are often the most triumphant, from the Mucem, the Frac and the Docks etc.

Cool Marseille, impassioned by architecture and design, doubles its “pharaonic” projects and easily rivals Paris, so will the city be able to keep up its course towards this new horizon? Demonstrations of this remain plentiful throughout this popular city, its poverty rate at 25%. The city also has a closed tradition, which dates back to antiquity, when it had to resist history’s assault. Even today, Marseille hardly exhibits itself, and its upper middle class “bourgeoisie” contingent live in tight-knit circles, avoiding the public eye.
Despite all this, a particular dynamic seems to have imposed itself, one that neither crisis nor political risks seem to halt. Marseille, this “beautiful but neglected daughter”, according to local saying, seems to have found the key to a new designer wardrobe.
A quick tour around its latest addresses.


Rooftop Marseille © DR
par Cécile Sepulchre

Marseille boasts the title as France’s second largest commune and the third largest populations, with 1, 56 million inhabitants.
As France’s main port, the Mediterranean’s second and the fourth largest port in the whole of Europe, for the last ten years the city has undergone a diverse transformation marked by 2013, which witnessed this Phocaean city become the culture capital of Europe with various architectural designs. The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM), founded in 2013 has thus become the most popular museum in the city (with 2 millions visitors in 2013).

The city’s history has been touched by numerous famous figures: Pierre Puget, “France’s Michel-Angelo” (18th and 19th centuries), is the most famous classical sculptor in the city. He also helped to introduce Baroque art to France. Antonin Artaud also made an impact at the start of the 20th century with The Theatre and its double, followed by Albert Londres who published “Marseille, the Southern Port” in 1927. Marcel Pagnol’s added to its history with his legendary Marseillaise trilogy, comprising of Marius (1929), Fanny (1931) and César (1946), which have also been adapted for the big screen. During the Second World War, André Breton and other realists were refugees in Marseille who founded the Jeu de Marseille.

  • C2 Hotel

    The latest hot spot for just a lucky few, the C2 presents a mix of design and conservatism. A year ago, this ultra designer 5 star hotel set itself up in a beautiful 19th century building, enriched by bas-relief, frescos and Paulo Rizatto chandeliers, marble and old wooden floors. Entirely reinvented with a contemporary edge, the décor juggles its old foundations and daring new additions in terms of art, design and architecture. Because, behind the initials “C2” are the first names of two architects with modern taste: Claire Fantoche and Christian Lefevre. They added an extra floor to the building, and lent their support to standout pieces, such as the enormous chandelier with synthetic lenses/bulbs, Charles Eames chairs and a Saarien table that gives the place a little twist. On each landing, an armchair pays homage to a famous architect: Franck Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh…
    The bedrooms are super sophisticated, with wall sections of the original brickwork as bedheads, based around Corian blue furniture, graphic carpeting inspired by the map of the city and designer pieces…In communal areas, the walls are adorned with street art, conveying the desire to regularly recognise these kind of artists. Musicians often come to liven up the Lounge bar, which gathers together the city’s golden youth after dark. In the daytime, lounge about on the terrace or swim in Filorga spa pool with its green mosaic tiles or in the private waters surrounding Degaby island, so near and yet so far from the hubbub of the city.

    48 rue Roux de Brignoles , 13006 Marseille, France


    A recently-opened concept store in a particular luxury hotel, which boasts all the bobo codes with its stream of boutiques. Design – naturally – fashion, jewellery and beauty figure amongst the themes of the place. You can take in its shopping excess whilst sipping on a cocktail in the private garden.

    35, rue Montgrand – 13006 Marseille – Tél: 06 17 25 17 66


    In this former butchery, Olivier Amsellem and Charlotte Brunet have created a high-tech mini concept store, merging fashion and beauty. Tiles, concrete and wood bring a touch of raw sophistication to the place.


    This designer delicatessen appeals to aesthetic gourmands. Refined chocolates, eclairs and hams rub shoulders in an exhibition space dedicated to young designers.


  • La Pequeña Boqueria,

    This Iberian food store is designed almost as carefully as the Spanish gourmet sweet and savory platters on offer, with a particularly sublime selection of hams.
    18, rue Edmond Rostand – 13006 Marseille – Tél : 06 28 77 12 30


    Recently opened in the antiques district, this furniture and design store offers a sharp selection of top-quality tables, chairs and lights as well as products devised by local artists.
    21 rue Edmond Rostang 13006 Marseilles


    This new multi-store, situated in the antiques area, puts forward pieces favoured by designer Adelaïde Obrié, from fashion to cooking and design.
    16, rue Edmond Rostand, 13006 Marseille
    09 82 29 20 21

  • The Palais de la Major

    The Palais de la Major, located next to the Mucem favours a light baroque décor with a sublime chandelier from the Moscow Casino. At the end of the night, DJs and music groups set the place alight.

    Quai de la Tourette, 13002 Marseille


    Far from the urban hustle and bustle, this restaurant has become the place to eat, enticing the whole of Marseille. Pascal, the owner, ensures a smiling welcome and upholds an irreproachable service. Facing the sea on the Point rouge side, you can French-… cuisine, whilst watching the sun go down…

    46 Avenue de Montredon, 13008 Marseille

  • Le Môle Passédat 

    It has the unique Mucem décor, a view of the sea and Géréald Passédat cuisine, chef of Petit Nice. A winning trio that makes this gourmet spot absolutely unmissable.

    MuCEM 1, esplanade du J4 13002 Marseille
    Réservations : reservation.lemole-passedat.com


    THE THEATRE DE LA JOILETTE offers, besides its refined schedule, a relaxing area. A bar and a free library with 9000 works, where each is covered in reflective white paper.

    2 place Henry Verneuil, 13002 MARSEILLE

  • The Terrasses du Port Rooftop

    The latest addition to nighttime haunts is located at the Terrasses du Port Rooftop. Dancing on its 2000m roof with a panoramic view over the city’s marina, reflected in the sea, is a unique experience. An added bonus, a restaurant (called R2) offers thai burgers and cocktails served from containers. International DJs set fire to the dancefloor several times a week.

    La Joliette 9 quai du Lazaret 13002 MARSEILLE


    Behind a discrete doorway, this particular hotel has at its disposal a pool for hotel guests. Unique pieces and plays with materials bring a refined note to this ultra designer décor.

    123 Rue Sainte, 13007 Marseille

  • Hôtel "La Résidence" 

    “La Résidence du Vieux Port” boasts the most beautiful view of Marseille, thanks to its enviable position on the harbor. The retro decoration has a very charming slightly dated air and breakfast overlooking the port is a delicious moment in itself.

    8 quai du port 13002 Marseille

  • Tea time in Marseille

    Do you really enjoy a cup of tea? Reacting pertinently to this subject, make an essential detour to see the “Spring Teatime” exhibition in Marseille. André Gabriel, a superb collector due to his passion, his scholarship and…his frank talk, has loaned no less than 600 rare pieces to the Maison de l’Artisanat et des Métiers d’Art. There are tea sets, naturally, but also samovars, boxes of tea, cups, tables and plenty of other fine objects, which have been painted, carved or hammered, dedicated to the creation and consumption of tea. A special chance to discover the one-thousand-and-one sides of tea, its history and its rituals. « Tea was originally a medicinal beverage, which slowly became a luxury drink. In the West, it has been associated with the idea of old grannies sipping cups of tea, whilst in Asia it can hold a religious and very strong social sense as well as being a passport to meditation” explains André Gabriel. Inspired by his passion, he has bargain hunted pieces from around the entire world: from Japan, China, India, Russia, South America, Africa and of course France, where he found pieces in Limoge dating back to the 18th century. There still remains one question. By what means has this academic, with his multiple collections, developed a passion for this millennia old beverage? His explanation is short. “That is a good question because my collection, on principle, is useless. One day, somebody had the terrible idea to invite me to a wine tasting, and I suggested tea instead, and it all started from there. I am a vegetarian, as you might have guessed, so I had to get involved in the world of tea. For the rest, get in touch with my psychiatrist”. Need another cup of tea?

    The exhibition is also worth a look due to its venue. La Maison de l’Artisanat et des Métier d’Art occupies a vast 18th century building, built upon the former location of the Arsenal des Galères of Louis XIV, situated right at the heart of it, in the Estienne d’Ovres courtyard. At the time, nearly 400 trades worked here. Massive dark wooden beams and floorboards, stones and ironworks immortalise this history. The handcraft house welcomes the largest number of visitors in the Bouches du Rhône (with 1.5 million visitors in 30 years), including names such as Jean Marais, Caesar, Roland Petit, Jean Jacques Goldman, etc.
    Particularly dynamic, this regional institution has organised more than 200 exhibitions beneath the firm leadership of its president, the truculent Jacques Rocca Serra. “I have done it all: exhibitions on all Mediterranean countries, on local metiers d’art, opera costumes, religious art, the Santons of Provence, Easter eggs – imagine 3650 eggs all intact – and even Father Christmas. We even had to do one about him!” . On a more serious note, Jacques Rocca Serra worries about the disappearance of artisans in his region. “We have therefore organised more exhibitions to support the Savon de Marseille, but that is not enough. You can count the number of soap factories on one hand” he laments. During the rejuvenation of “Made in France”, his voice deserves to be heard more than ever.

    “Spring Teatime”. Until 27th May at the la Maison de l’artisanat et des métiers d’art 21, Cours d’Estienne d’Orves, 1er.
    Open Tuesday to Friday from 10am-12pm and from 1pm-6pm, on Saturday from 1pm to 6pm. Guided tours with André Garbiel (which are highly recommended) take place at 3:30pm on Saturday 16th May and Tuesday 19th May.
    Under the aegis of the Consul General of Japan: Tea Ceremony, Chanoyu, presented by Shizue Omi on Saturday 16th and 23rd May.

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