Friday, February 15, 2019

La Vieille Charité Marseille France

The entrance to La Vieille Charité

The portico of the chapel

The rectangular building

The chapel & courtyard.  Photos taken in February 2017

La Vieille Charité (The Old Charity) in Marseille France is considered a masterpiece of 17th century architectural design. The name of charité is misleading.  Beggars & homeless people were imprisoned here & forced to work, an uncharitable attitude common at the time.  La Vieille Charité is located in the heart of Le Panier, the old city of Marseille.  The grand architecture & open space is quite striking among the narrow streets & modest houses of Le Panier.  La Vieille Charité was built between 1671 & 1749, following the plan of architect Pierre Puget. The larger building is a 3-story rectangle surrounding a courtyard.  A chapel with a portico supported by Corinthian columns is at the center of the courtyard.  The portico is similar to those of Roman temples.  Both buildings are constructed of pink & yellow sandstone from ancient quarries at Cap Couronne.  Although it was not damaged during the French Revolution or WW2, it became quite degraded during more than two centuries of various uses.  La Vieille Charité was restored between 1970 & 1986.  It now houses the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology & the Museum of Art of Africa, Oceania & Amerindia.  Both are only moderately interesting.  There is also a research library of archaeological documents, a school of advanced studies in social sciences & offices of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (French National Center for Scientific Research).

Friday, February 1, 2019

Le Panier Marseille France


Photos taken in February & March 2017

Le Panier is the Old City in Marseille, France.  People have lived on this piece of land for more than 2,000 years.  This neighborhood was heavily damaged during World War 2, then rebuilt with the same street plan & sometimes the same foundations, as before. This streetscape was not as appealing to me as those in other cities, where the buildings are much older.  These houses look modern.  But the place still has more charm than many urban neighborhoods in the US.  The narrow houses, the street plan that does not conform to a modern grid & the narrow streets that can barely accommodate a car, all that feels intriguingly alien to an American.  How nice it would be, if this plan were adapted for use in modern cities, a respite from too many cars taking up too much space.  Compare this with other old cities that evolved centuries ago & more modern urban landscapes.

Friday, January 18, 2019


The new building seen from Fort Saint-Jean

MuCEM from the Jardin du Pharo

The roof

Fort Saint-Jean from the new MuCEM building

There are walkways like this on every level.

MuCEM in March, 2017

MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée) is a museum in Marseille, France. It is the first museum in the world devoted to Mediterranean cultures. An architectural contest began in October 2002, organized by the Ministry of Culture and of Communication, with 6 teams of architects competing. Rudy Ricciotti was selected in February 2004. MuCEM was inaugurated in 2013, the year Marseille was the European Capital of Culture. About half of the new building is covered by a lacy construction of fiber-concrete meant to resemble fishnet, the most visually interesting part of the design. This covering is called the mantilla, a lace headscarf worn in Spain.  There are walkways on every level between the mantilla & the glass walls.  The building is set on a pier just outside the Vieux (Old) Port & connected by a footbridge to the remodeled Fort Saint-Jean, also part of the museum. Rudy Ricciotti was born in 1952 in Algeria. He studied architecture at the National School of Architecture in Marseille & then engineering at the School of Engineering of Geneva. In 2006, he received the Grand Prix national de l'architecture, a French prize awarded by a jury of twenty persons (under the Ministry of Culture) for recognition of outstanding contribution to architecture.

Friday, January 4, 2019

MuCEM: Le jardin des migrations

These photos were taken on March 12, 2017

Click here for more photos of Le jardin des migrations.
Click here for video of Le jardin des migrations.

This garden at MuCEM is a cultural selection of Mediterranean plants seen & used for millennia by people across the Mediterranean, in a variety of ways.  The plants in this garden have often migrated with those people.  It's a xeric (dry) garden representative of the of Mediterranean climate & necessary in this exposed & windy position on the roofs of the museum.  The garden spreads widely over the the ramparts of the 17th-century Fort Saint-Jean with panoramic views of Marseille, where human migrants arrived long before the earliest recorded settlement by Phoceaen Greeks 2,600 years ago.  15 botanical landscapes include the Garden of Wind, aromatics, Wild Salads of the Fort, a formal myrtle garden, potager, medicinal garden, olive grove & a garden of stone slabs.  They were planted by Olivier Filippi, a nurseryman & Véronique Mure, a botanist.  I was more fascinated with the gardens & the architecture of the fort, than the striking new museum building & the very interesting displays there. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Vieux Port Marseille France

Northern Bank of the Vieux Port

Eastern Bank of the Vieux Port

Fort Saint-Jean at the entrance to the Vieux Port

Northern Bank of the Vieux Port

Museum of the Roman Docks

La maison Diamantée (ancien hôtel de Saboulin Bollena) Photos taken February & March 2017

Click here for more photos of Marseille.

The Vieux (Old) Port is the visual centerpiece of Marseille, a grand & captivating sight. The most striking feature its almost complete enclosure by the beautiful City of Marseille. It is certainly the main tourist attraction & center of tourist activity. Marseille was founded as a trading port in 600 BC by Greeks from Phocaea. You may see references to the Phocaeans around the city.  They set up a trading post in the hills on the northern bank. Marseille lies in a sheltered depression surrounded by hills. The Vieux Port is a natural harbor similar to many of the inlets along the rocky coastline of the northeastern Mediterranean. 

During Antiquity & the Middles Ages, the Greek, Roman & Medieval city expanded on the northern bank of the Vieux Port.  Growth to the south began in the 17th century.  The Old Port remained the center of maritime activity in Marseille until the 19th century. Between the 15th & 17th centuries, quays were constructed under Louis XII & Louis XIII.  Following a revolt against their governor by the citizens of Marseille, Louis XIV built the forts of St Jean & St Nicolas at the entrance to the Vieux Port.

Axis powers bombed the Port of Marseille in 1940 during World War II.  German forces occupied the Vieux Port from 1942 to 1944. The Vieux Port was a busy center for the French Resistance. In an effort to thwart the resistance, the Germans demolished much of the old quarter (Le Panier). German mines in the Vieux Port created more damage in 1944. After the war, huge reparations were provided by Germany & Italy to compensate for those killed or left homeless by the destruction.

Reconstruction of Le Panier began in 1948.  The medieval plan was retained, streets were rebuilt in place & some houses were rebuilt on the original foundations.  Le Panier is a major tourist site at the Vieux Port.  There is also a quay with ferries to the Iles Frioul, which lie just outside the Vieux Port.  Most interesting to me were the MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée) & the Museum of the Roman Docks (Musée des docks romains).

Friday, November 16, 2018

Vieux Nice France

Photos taken in February 2017

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Vieux Nice is the antique heart of Nice France.  It is also called the Vieille Ville, or Old City.  Vieux Nice was an expansion of the village on the hill above, beginning sometime during the Middle Ages.  The map below shows that Vieux Nice had developed significantly by 1624.

I thought Vieux Nice was charming.  It had a theme park atmosphere, with buildings recently painted in rich shades of pink, yellow & orange, as though the city had passed out paint chips.  The streetscape was very appealing to me.  The narrow houses, the street plan that does not conform to a modern grid & the narrow streets that can barely accommodate a car, all create a fantasy landscape that people find intriguingly alien.  How nice it would be, if this were adapted for use in modern cities, a respite from too many cars taking too much space.  I'm thankful places like this still exist & hopeful that similar places may be built now & in the future.  Compare this with other old cities that evolved centuries ago & more modern urban landscapes.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Place Garibaldi Nice France

Statue of Garibaldi

Photos taken in February 2017

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Place Garibaldi is a beautiful, lively & venerable public space in Nice France. Located near the port, it was first conceived as an extension of Vieux Nice (the old city) in the late 18th century.  Work began in 1773.  Antonio Spinelli was chosen to create the design in 1780.  He modeled Place Garibaldi on the great squares of Turin.  Place Garibaldi soon became the terminus of the new road that connected Nice to Turin, the capital of Savoy, which then included Nice. The Royal Route of Turin is now the Rue de la Republique.  The square was primarily created to improve the movement of goods between the city, the port & the hinterlands. After a series of other names, it became Place Garibaldi in 1870. Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian general & politician who played a major role in the unification of Italy (the Risorgimento), was born in Nice.  His statue was erected at Place Garibaldi in 1891. The square was also planted at that time with trees for beautification.  Unfortunately, but probably inevitably during the 20th century, priority was given to automobile traffic & Garibaldi Square became a transportation hub with parking in its open spaces. Public space was limited to walkways under the porticoes. Commercial activity declined.  As part of the Nice's downtown renewal policies of the 2000s, the creation of a tramway line crossing the square reduced the influence of automobiles. New plantings & open spaces occupy areas previously dedicated to parking or traffic. As a result, Place Garibaldi has gained renewed vitality & importance in the urban landscape of Nice.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Longwood Gardens

Near the Flower Garden Walk

The large lake

The meadow, perhaps the most beautiful sight at Longwood

The du Pont home

One part of the vast conservatory.  These photos were taken in April 2016.

Click here for more photos of Longwood Gardens.

I had heard that Longwood Gardens was one of the most outstanding gardens in America.  That notion just led me to be disappointed.  It was nice.  But I didn't think it was all that great.  It covers a large area, over 1,000 acres.  Much of that is meadow & forest.  In April, the main cultivated garden attraction, the Flower Garden Walk & adjacent gardens, had planting beds filled with common bulbs; pretty but dull.  Although there are plant collections, it's certainly not a botanic garden like those in New York City, San Francisco or Los Angeles.  The Italian Water Garden & the Topiary Garden are just plain ugly.  However, the conservatory is amazing, one of the best I've seen.  The garden is located outside Philadelphia in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Pierre S du Pont, a wealthy industrialist, purchased this land in 1906 & called it Longwood. He laid out the Flower Garden Walk in 1907.  The conservatory was completed in 1921 & opened to the public. After du Pont’s death in 1954, Longwood Gardens was run by garden directors, the gardens were expanded & the entire estate was opened to the public.  In the 1970s, the famous landscape architect Thomas Church helped Longwood Gardens with long-range planning & garden improvement. He designed the Theatre Garden, Wisteria Garden & the Peony Garden.  I've always found Church's work to be a bit bland, like Longwood Gardens itself.