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The MuCEM in Marseille

An iconic site, symbol of the marriage between Marseille and the Mediterranean

Marseille is a hugely symbolic choice for the installation of the museum. On the shore of a Mediterranean in which we must reinvest, first and foremost through education and culture, this great city – the second largest in France by population – remains the most emblematic of these multiple and permanent contacts between the two shores, and of the diverse influences created by successive layers, unmistakable ingredients of its popular culture.


The site chosen for the museum - the Fort Saint-Jean and the J4 pier of the commercial port - at the junction between the Old Port and the Joliette, at the front of the city, is in complete harmony with the museum's theme.


Each part of the Fort Saint-Jean site bears testimony to Marseille's civil and military history. On the Greek and Roman ruins of the ancient state-city, there is a 12th century chapel that was part of the former Commandry of St. John of Jerusalem, the medieval tower of King René (built between 1447 and 1453), and the Tour du Fanal erected in the 17th century at the request of ship-owners to light up the entrance to the harbour, surrounded by various military fortifications. The historical site, and the harmonious diversity of the military, religious and civil elements that compose it, has always been closed to the public.


Until decolonisation, it was via the J4 pier that travellers from around the world came and went. It was also the J4 pier that welcomed jazz to Marseilles in 1920. And it was via the J4 pier that artists and writers threatened by the Nazis left Europe for the United States.


The MuCEM's location is therefore a location steeped in history and memories, at the heart of a prestigious heritage site - Cathédrale de la Major, Eglise Saint-Laurent, with views of the Palais du Pharo, and the Abbaye Saint-Victor, the sea and the islands of Friuli - overlooking "the Suez and beyond".


Contributing to the city's influence


Through its strategic location at the heart of Marseille, the MuCEM is a major development, not only for the Mediterranean, but also for the city of Marseille.


The transformation of the waterfront undertaken by the public planning body EuroMéditerranée, in close collaboration with local authorities and the European Union, has two objectives: to convert this area into a new business hub and to revitalise the city centre and port, while creating connections between them. A new neighbourhood is being created between the seafront and the heart of the city. This transformation has accelerated since 2008 when Marseille was appointed as the European Capital of Culture 2013. EuroMéditerranée encompasses most of the new flagship cultural facilities in its geographical area: the MuCEM, the Villa Méditerranée, the Silo and its theatre, the Regional Contemporary Art Fund, Euromed Center and its multiplex cinema, plus the conservation of the Regards de Provence Museum.


Major projects designed by internationally renowned architects (Massimiliano Fuksas, Euromed Center / Jean Nouvel, Les quais d'Arenc / Zaha Hadid, tour CMA CGM / Stefano Boeri, Villa Méditerranée / Rudy Ricciotti, MuCEM / Kengo Kuma, Frac / Jacques Ferrier, Euromed station) will provide the city with a new central focus and, under the watchful eye of Notre-Dame de la Garde, are giving fresh impetus to Marseille and its surrounding region.