J1 L’Odyssée, the Underwater City

Marseilles, France

J1 L’Odyssée, the Underwater City
Marseilles, France

program: Redevelopment of the J1 building in Marseilles – an underwater city dedicated to Blue Economy with research, training and exhibition spaces; gourmet market, hotel, retail, sport spaces, offices and services
total area: 46 611 m2
gourmet market: 1 840 m2
sports & spa: 1 970 m2
offices: 11 401 m2
training spaces: 3 830 m2
gestione / concierge: 1 040 m2
exhibition spaces: 1 150 m2
hotel: 6 060 m2
retail spaces: 2 050 m2
body of water: 250 m2
underwater city: 10 920 m2
restaurant: 1 100 m2

client: Grand Port Maritime de Marseille
Alfonso Femia / Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia with Carta Associés, Jacques Rougerie Architectes Associés, Christiane Schmückle-Mollard
design: Ora Ito
lighting design: Alfonso Femia/AF*DESIGN with SNAIK – Yann Kersalé
engineering: BG Ingénieurs conseils – EDF
economy control office: R2M
promotor: DCB International
contractor: FAYAT Bâtiment
energy levels and certifications: label One Planet Living, label BBCA (Bâtiment Bas Carbone) Rénovation 2018

images: ©Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia & Diorama

Marseilles is connected to its sea, the Mediterranean, through an axis that connects north to south there where its harbour turns towards east and looks west.
To the west, the horizon and many other that are created during the day according to the parabolic trajectory of the sun that accompanies us until sunset. The harbour, with the characteristic profiles of its port infrastructures, concentrates to the west its most emblematic structures, of which J1 is one of the last extraordinary examples.
The project is a continuous research for dialogue with the light that turns towards the horizon, penetrating between J1’s structure and the suspended volume of the underwater space. J1’s horizon is that of the sea merging with the sky and of the sky merging with the sea. Feel it, discover it, experience it at different levels, through different worlds, from the city to the harbour and from the harbour to the sea; these are the feelings that guide all the phases of our project, always looking for this suspension between water and air or between sea and sky, in an always clear relationship between the value of heritage, of the « existing », of J1, the public space, the harbour, the exploration space and the underwater one.
Finally, this project minimizes the amount of ground occupied by the building. The new project is partly conceived as a “underwater” volume, with more intimate spaces destined to discovery and contemplation. And then, a suspended space destined to a more collective dimension, always exploring the horizon and the city. In the middle, the empty, transparent and permeable space brings continuity with the public space of the city.