Kyle VanHemert discusses the new Vieux Port pavilion in Marseille, "a thousand-square-meter piece of strikingly reflective stainless steel" that's been erected alongside the historic harbor in time for the city's turn as a European Capital of Culture for 2013.
As Steven Erlanger and Maia de la Baume noted recently in The New York Times, "[the title] gives Marseille, France’s second-largest city, a chance to remake itself, reclaim its gorgeous port for ordinary citizens and to reshape its image — from a poor, rough, crime-ridden and corrupt crossroads whose economy declined with the end of colonialism to an attractive tourist destination of sun, sea, seafood and culture." And the pavilion certainly looks like a tourist magnet, in the same vein as Chicago's Cloud Gate sculpture.
"The design--that single, ultra-thin stainless steel surface, held up by eight unadorned pillars--is a stroke of simple brilliance," says VanHemert. "For those approaching or just passing by, the pavilion will be nearly invisible, which is a good thing--the harbor, a World Heritage site, deservedly remains the star of the show. But up close, the hovering mirror both transforms and expands the space. It can direct pedestrians’ gazes back out to the sea, or allow them to inspect their own reflections overhead, essentially making them part of the landscape."