LES DOCKS - Marseille | image courtesy of AF517 | photo ©Luc Boegly

Marseilles Docks

Marseilles (FR)

© Author: Arch. Francesco De Fazio

The Docks of Marseilles are a place where people can think, and the territory meets the city.

Past and future communicate with the users and inhabitants of the place.

In the middle of 1800s, when the Docks of Marseilles were built, they represented the third most important construction work of France. Therefore, they have been characterizing the urban panorama of the city harbor for more than two centuries.

“Every big city has “heroic” buildings that are known for their duration. They are defined by their dimension and visibility in urban spaces. The majority of them had been built ages ago.” ~ Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia – AF517

Constructa Urban System strongly wanted the realization of the project and, along with JP Morgan Asset Management, was the client. Both companies strongly believed in the innovative project for its concept and architecture.

A specific answer to a specific context

The architecture of Les Docks of Marseilles was a specific answer to a specific context. In fact, the project had to keep into consideration the peculiarity of the place, Marseille, and the relationship between the Docks: the city and the sea.

Historically, the Docks are on the dividing line of the sea and the city. Thanks to this strong separation of the territory, the architects Alfonso Femia and Gianluca Peluffo turned it into a place of dialogue.

The concept vocation was combining the two souls of the city: the urban and the marine one. The Docks of Marseilles are now a receptive place that create a landscape between city and nature. This relationship had been developed on the north-south and east-west axis. The North stands for the contemporary city, the South for the historic city, the East for the modern city and the West for the reconquered port.

From dividing line to social place

They created a place in connection with the longitudinal system. This was possible thanks to the buildings on the extremities of the Docks, which overlook the two main squares: the historical one, Place de la Joliette, and the newest one, Place de la Méditerranée.

Therefore, the project is an urban “knot” of exchange and interaction between two parts of Marseilles.

The architects also changed the organization of the spaces that are connected with each others, the city and the sea. They also created a new social place characterized by the theme of Mediterranean territory.

The project redefined indeed the four courts in business, arts and cultural areas, that extend from the interior to the exterior, or rather, the two squares and the neighboring streets. By doing so, four stops inside a diagonal path were created.

Revealing the beauty of the place to be shared

Perception, visual openings, and paths had been particularly taken good care of. The light creates original atmospheres on the facades of stone, colored glass, or metal. The sun and the wind are both architectural and energetic sources.

The Port, the Village and the Market are the three themes that – thanks to surprising materials, unexpected scenic design, and adapted plants – corner the new spaces of the building, symbol of Maerseilles.

“Creating colours, materials, lights, animals, and walls made of words. Talking and looking for a poetical meeting between past and present, the sensuality of the light that changes form into an alive substance. Light and transparency, linearity and counterpoints, melody and refrain, a slow movement and a fast one. Simply: The Docks of Marseilles”.“.
~ Alfonso Femia / Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

Project info and credits:

JPMorgan Asset Management, Constructa Urban Systems (Appointed contracting Authority)

architectural and landscape design
Alfonso Femia with 5+1AA, now Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia

architect in charge
Alfonso Femia

structural engineering
Secmo, Marseille

services engineering
G2I Garcia, Marseille

Economy control office
R2M, Marseille

Bureau de Contrôle
Bureau Veritas, Marseille

Appointed contracting authority
Constructa Urban Systems, Marseille

general contractor
Vinci-Dumez Méditerranée et Girard

project director
Nicola Spinetto, Sara Traverso

design team
Lorenza Barabino, Luca Bonsignorio, Simonetta Cenci, Alfonso Femia, Sara Gottardo, Sara Massa, Fanélie Pardon, Valeria Parodi, Gianluca Peluffo, Carola Picasso, Nicola Spinetto, Sara Traverso.

Alessandro Bellus, Etienne Bourdais, Francesco Busto, Roxana Calugar. Gabriele Filippi, M. Cristina Giordani, Valentina Grimaldi, Suzanne Jubert, Roberto Mancini, Aude Rasson, Giulia Tubelli,

Requalification of the ground floor, courts and basements of Docks building: creation of 50 retail spaces, 20 restaurants, 1 market, 1 exhibition space, meeting points and services.

ground floor
10.912 m2
8.338 m2
1.415 m2
528 m2
TOTAL: 21,000 m2

22.500.000,00 euro

2009: international competition, winning design
2010: preliminary design – definitive design
2012: executive design
2013: construction beginning
2015: completion

©AF517 (as 5+1AA)

©Luc Boegly

Danilo Trogu

North facade
Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia *AF517 & Tapiro design

international competition: winning design


  • “Best of Best” Award, Iconic Awards 2017 of Frankfurt (Germany)
  • FX International Awards – London, United Kingdom, winner of the prize for the “Best Global Project” 2016
  • MAPIC AWARDS Cannes, France, winners of the prize for the “Best Retail Urban Project” 2016
  • ULI Global Awards for Excellence in Dallas, Texas (USA) 2016
  • LEAF AWARDS – London, United Kingdom, winner of the prize for the “Commercial Building of the Year” (2016)
  • Winner of the “MIPIM Award 2016” as Best Commercial Centre
  • First Prize at “Grand Prix Casalgrande Padana – La ceramic e il progetto” 2016
  • First Prize in the “redevelopment” category at The Plan International Awards 2016