Transient Liquidities Along the New Silk Road
MSc3/4 Graduation studio
Friso van Dijk
Sun Ah Hwang
Negar Sanaan Bensi
The Massilia that came into existence around 2000 years ago has turned into a city unlike others in europe. Its millenia long history as a melting pot of cultures and nationalities has led to a city that might better be called a vast collection of villages, neighborhoods and projects. Known as a rough place, where the disenfranchised youth race the streets on their motorcycles while the elite build cultural palaces on the waterfront. The notion of the disconnected or fractured city echoes through all aspects of the city. This has led to a patchwork of tight-knit communities that connect the Marseillais through mutual respect.
This patchwork is described as a planet by the Marseillais themselves, La Planète Mars, a separate entity that supersedes France in their eyes. If you ask the people from the projects you will receive similar answers, whether they still live there or got out like football star Zidane: they are first from the project, then from Marseille and lastly from France.
The untamed and chaotic nature of Marseille however, is also what has made it more than its reputation as a dangerous city. As gentrification remains an impossible task, bottom up initiatives flourish, creating a more small-scale approach to culture for the majority of its inhabitants. Where ‘low’ culture, as the policy makers would call it, flourishes in street art and an underground music scene, which we experienced in a small-scale fully recycled and organic rave. The longer we stayed in Marseille the more we noticed that life was lived on the streets. When people were not working they seemed to spend their time outside the house. The city is in a way the living room of the Marseillais. Whether it is in the teahouses, kebab shops, galleries or the cafes and bars that can be found everywhere, there are always people outside. This is at least partially caused by the sun that shines 300 days a year, but it might also be a result of the patched culture of the city. Where the city living room enables us to connect with people from the entire neighborhood or project, rather than just those close to us.
As we came back we were left with this feeling that Marseille is indeed a city of anomalies. Where every patch within the tapestry has their distinct elements that do not repeat themselves in the others. Where life is played out between the deviations that allow people to say, I am first from here, then Marseille and lastly France.