IAAC LECTURES SERIES: STEFANO BOERI

Tonight at IAAC, Stefano Boeri gave us a lecture explaining his way of producing architecture and specially the relation that this field has with politics. Stefano focused on two projects, one related to the harbour architecture, and the other one related with how can we use vegetation as a main element to produce a tower. One of the main characteristics of this projects is that they have been built, which is something that is not common in all this radical and innovative architectural projects. Because of that, Stefano could explain many aspects of the materialitzation of both projects, which gave to the lecture a very interesting sense of precision and reality.

 

I have always been obsessed with harbour architecture.
For many years, in Genoa, Thessaloniki, Naples, Trieste, Mytilene and La Maddalena, I have studied, thought
about and designed buildings that face onto the sea—constructions like silos, naval stations, warehouses,
observation towers and dry docks.
These buildings work as border infrastructure, accustomed to handling the huge mobile volumes of ships and
containers, acting as boundaries between expanses of water and the large spaces used for parking and
shunting goods.
The Villa Méditerranée is a dock building. It is a construction that combines the characteristics of civic
architecture with those of harbour infrastructure and off-shore platforms. Its spaces, traversed by a mixed
structure of reinforced concrete and steel, are articulated in plan via three parallel, superimposed, horizontal
levels, two of which are developed above and below the level of the sea—a large, 1,000-square-metre
exhibition area set 14 metres above the water, and a 2,500-square-metre space for conferences and theatrical
events below.
The heart of the project is the large piazza/dock pool: a covered collective space protected from the sun and
wind.
The water piazza is connected to the open sea, allowing currents, fish and boats to enter the architecture.
Rather than creating a pool or basin, this marine building provides useful space for mooring and sailing, for
games, parties, shows, commerce and even fishing. Villa Méditerranée will be the great cavana of Marseille, a
place where the city can welcome the currents of thought and life that cross the Mediterranean.
Villa Méditerranée is a place of thought and research that physically embraces the sea.
When I designed the building in 2003, I was working with the Multiplicity group on an investigation into routes
travelled by illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean. Titled Solid Sea, our study set out to highlight the new
form of the Mediterranean, how it had become a “solid sea” crossed by routes that are as specialised and rigid
as motorways, ones which never allow their various users (immigrants, tourists, fishermen and the military, for
example) to meet or communicate.
A year before, at Documenta XI in Kassel, with Multiplicity we presented the reconstruction of a tragedy that
took place off the coast of Sicily: a shipwreck that claimed the lives of over 283 Sri Lankan, Indian and
Pakistani refugees, partly as a result of the indifference of the Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities.
The desire to counteract this drift towards closure and isolation led to the idea of a building that, in contrast, is
explicitly open to the cultural exchanges originating from the sea, welcoming researchers, students, artists,
intellectuals and tourists. This structure represents the extraordinary mixture of languages, tastes and colours
that Marseille has received from other cities in the Mediterranean.
It is a design capable of embodying the ambitious project of Regional Council President Michel Vauzelle: to
create a centre in Marseille for the revival of cultural and political relationships between the Mediterranean’s
different shores and cities, amid a Europe in crisis, a North Africa in turmoil and a Middle East being torn
apart.
A text by Stefano Boeri

 

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