The history of the La Capelette project in Marseille is a strange one. In effect, over the course of time, the contractors, Icade and Sifer, worked with a series of different architects, and the original programme evolved substantially. Based on an initial, spectacular design by Jacques Redondo, ILR, under our aegis the project took on a decidedly mixed use aspect, characterized by a “deconstructivist” architectural style. When Arquitectonica was invited to work alongside us, the project was entirely reappraised and the emphasis shifted to a mono-functional approach focusing on the development of a shopping and leisure centre with no offices and residential units. This was the option finally selected.
It is interesting here to describe the successive versions of the project, which demonstrate that there is no single solution to a complex architectural problem. The approach was similar to the one that might be taken in a competition, so different are the proposals from each other.
With the neighbouring building, the Palais de la Glisse et de la Glace, an ice rink and skate board centre, the project constitutes a singular architectural ensemble; while the sports facility is based on an aesthetic of curves, intended according to its architect to evoke the traces left by skates on the ice, our design provides a radical counterpoint. Indeed, it presents a series of sharp, lively forms, particularly evident in the office buildings located on the commercial base, which create the impression that the Palais’ wave of metal is breaking against a row of white “reefs”. The building also foregrounds its relationship with Marseille’s incomparable light ; entirely white, it boasts a number of mesh masks that serve as sun breaks. The light provides a play of masks and reflections, throwing up a combination of regular and amorphous shadows that deconstruct our perception of the building’s apparently complex shapes. However, we are still in the realm of illusions here, for the buildings constructed over the shopping centre are, in reality, simple, and it is the oblique treatment of their limits that creates a spectacular visual effect.