Surroundings of Marseille’s Saint-Charles station
The surroundings of Marseille’s Saint-Charles station are constricted, and the urban fabric is dense. There is the railway, the A7 motorway, a multifunctional centre with bus and metro stations, and parking facilities. This project was part of the Saint-Charles/Porte-d’Aix development plan, based on a makeover of these two principal gateways to the city: the station itself, and, for those arriving by the motorway, the Porte-d’Aix.
Towards a renewal of urban amenity
How is a utility that is also a monument to be redesigned in a space of intense activity? The idea is to improve the user’s experience by circumventing traditional mono-functionalities. At the meeting point of the university, the station, Avenue Général Leclerc and Boulevards Desplaces and Nedelec, Ilex suggested that the different entities be decoupled, and functions rearticulated.
Like the historic stairway, the esplanade in front of the station is paved in limestone across Place Victor Hugo to the university, whose gardens are freed up, extending out to the station with indigenous plants and perennials such as cypress, maritime pines and date palms from the Canaries. These sub-spaces of plant life provide places to linger and meet up, in the heart of the city. And from here, rivers of verdure flow out to Boulevards Nedelec and Bourdet, controlling and securitising the flows of people.
The evolution of public space
Decompartmentalisation involves change, adaptability and future-proofing. Ilex advocates transitions of public space towards something less rigid and segmented, where people can feel comfortable, relax and meet. This space can also be one of potentially continuous change.