Claude Parent

Hôtel de Région, Marseille, 1987-1991

The competition for the second phase of the Hôtel de Région, a major project (total surface area of 26 510 m²) located at the entrance to Marseille, followed the first works, designed by the architect Jean-Michel Battesti, which had been completed in 1987. Claude Parent formed a partnership with local architects Christian Biaggi and Bruno Maurin for the project. Parent’s task was to find a way to insert these new buildings, symbols of the regional authority, into the urban landscape and to enhance the identity of the new monumental ensemble. The neighborhood had been neglected for several years but benefited from an excellent view over the Porte d'Aix. The Hôtel de Région was intended as one of the key elements in the renovation of the entrance to France’s second largest city. The complex comprises several buildings, on a terrain where ancient architecture (fragment of the superstructure of the Roman aqueduct) stands facing modern constructions; the key element of the project is the place given to the Aqueduct that leads north toward the Comité Économique et Social (economic and social committee, or CES) and to the east toward the Atrium (or the Building of Elected Officials). On the southern end of the esplanade stands the Présentines building (preexisting) behind which are the main courtyard and the chamber of the authority, whose roof is comprised of an open-air amphitheater. To the west, a long rectangular building houses offices. The project’s aim was to unify this complex, multipurpose ensemble while endowing each building with a specific character. For the façade of the Bâtiment des Élus, following the example of what he had already experimented with for the SEPTEN (Lyon-Villeurbanne, 1982-1984), Parent focused on creating a fault line in the framework. Likewise, inside, the architect privileged the great central atrium with its glass roof. The circulation between the various offices is via ramps with a 5% incline, three staggered levels making it possible to pass from one level to the next without a single step on a staircase. Unity is mainly achieved through the selected materials (prefabricated, beige-colored and polished concrete panels) which are well matched with the stone utilized in the first phase of the project.

Audrey Jeanroy

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