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Massimo Vitali

Friche de la Belle de Mai On Air


Edition of 6 plus 2 AP
Lightjet print from original digital file on photographic paper - Diasec mount with wooden frame
181.5 x 242 cm
71 1/2 x 95 1/4 in

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Marseille is a city that has in effect experienced one of the moments in which architecture gave much in every sense to the lives of its people. From the Cité radieuse to the more recent works such as the redevelopment of the Vieux Port (old harbour) by Norman Foster and the MUCEM museum. Starting out with the Unité d’Habitation, which inspired a new form of communal life, different to that of ordinary condominiums, the same spirit has prevailed. For example, La Friche de la belle de mai, depicts an old tobacco factory of five or six floors that was abandoned but has now been restored to the city as a centre for the arts. Here too, a purpose has been given to the building, which has been enlivened by social activity that is both alternative and cultural; this too represents an important moment for the city. The building is a place where the equilibrium between power and state is actuated, as was the case in the post-war years when Le Corbusier designed the Unité. The principle is the same and corresponds to a balance between the power of the central state and the will of the people. On the basis of a central tenet of the French state, especially in Marseille, a sea port in which the state has had to intervene in order to ensure the tranquillity of the community and the people. For example, all 337 apartments in the Unité d’Habitation were designed over two floors, like small houses stacked one upon another, an approach that was revolutionary in the context of a large popular housing project. It was designed to provide people with the sensation of inhabiting a semi- detached dwelling rather than a skyscraper. My Le Corbusier photo was taken almost by chance from the roof of the Unité d’Habitation where they still practice yoga. We were arguing over access to the roof when the residents arrived for their session. It’s an example of a photo in which we took advantage of a situation; we tagged along with the group that was going up to the roof to exercise as a way of avoiding the security staff that did not want us going up there to photograph. We came to an agreement and managed to gain access… and that’s how it came about.


Massimo Vitali interviewed by Mirta d’Argenzio, The radiant city, 2019