LIMESTONE MUSEUM | Marseille, France | Unit 21 | 2016
The Museum is a testament to Marseille’s relationship with its adjacent Limestone outcrop. Layers within the stone are chronological and run parallel to the past narrative of Limestone within Marseille; the early construction of the city and the formation of the impressive coastal creeks (Le Calanques).
The geological value of the stone led to an archaeological approach to quarrying, such that the Limestone and its spectrum of data became the object of excavation; the artefact to study and preserve. By removing specific volumes of stone in a controlled area, the quarry footprint was designed such that it could be occupied once quarrying was complete. An inhabitable intervention was calved into the landscape as opposed to destroying this unique site.
Limestone, in both authentic and progressive forms, was reconstituted into a site of urban excavation. Existing party walls bore evidence of the demolished building that had previously occupied the site. Traces of floor plates, openings and structural steel beams remained.
To communicate the process of excavation, these vestiges were preserved and incorporated into the building.
The standard quarried block size is expressed in the museum’s construction to emphasise the stones relationship to the quarry.
Each block is cut and refined depending on its role and configuration within the building. Layers of stone strata that correspond to time past are expressed according to the users interaction with each space. Folds and fault lines in the stone are exposed and translucent walkways traverse these phenomenon.
Impressions of the Calanque surface were cast into concrete made form the quarried limestone and local clay. The Calanque topography thus became a surface within the museum. Concrete was used in spaces which were required to perform a particular function, namely the auditorium and laboratory. Any excess stone was ground to make concrete. In effect, no stone was wasted.
Tools used to cut and refine stone have varied tolerances. In order to achieve rough, smooth and polished surfaces, tolerances had to be defined in the construction process. The contrast between routh cut textures and smooth surfaces define areas of touch and functionality throughout the building.
The Museum symbolises an exchange between two sites; a stone quarry and an urban excavation. Stone is extracted, cut, and refined then reconstituted in the city, leaving a footprint that transforms the quarry into a habitable intervention. The visitor is taken on a tour through cemented layers of time and geological data, where contact with different textures, compositions and ages of stone are sensitively controlled.