Rethinking the City of Marseille Through Its Control, Occupation and Separation

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Rethinking the city of Marseille through its control, occupation and separation


With the urban development, there are more and more physical boundaries built in cities separating urban spaces, like transportation infrastructure : railway and highway. these construction became more visible but less accessible for pedestrians. Although they are important to keep the city operating well, they created an enclosed atmosphere within the city to its exterior space. On the other hand, boundaries also formed by the legal borders or regions, countries or nations are used to define edges, separate two entities, and interrupt flows such as human migrations and ecosystems. Natural and artificial boundaries exist and will continue to do so in one way or another. Is it possible to rethink what a boundary is, and what its potential in cites can be, and if we even need them or not?

Urban development has acquired sufficient infrastructure to support cities, but linear infrastructure was always treated as an accessory to cities without serious consideration and regulation of urban and spatial issues . These infrastructures cut the urban fabric and circulation of pedestrians. But they provided essential functions of structure to the city and at the same time identity for people recognizing urban spaces. The most interesting aspect is that they are elements with the function of transporting and connecting, but produce division in urban patterns.

The idea of Boundary and Border are multidimensional elements in urban space - from the national scale like national border barrier to the urban scale like airport and seaport. But they are usually used in a negative signification, because they often promote being linked to international positions like marginalization and exclusion and being formed as a barrier or a fence.

With this issue, my project is about observing the boundary/border condition between Marseille and its seaport, these boundaries not only formed a hinterland between city and seaport but also possessed more complicated effects to the city. Furthermore, giving a definition of boundary and border in their function and show the main issue with port of Marseille– the paradox of its multi-meanings of separation, connection and control. Through different perspectives from immigrants, tourists and local people in Marseille, using the concept of (The Urban Lobby) to deal with the issue of boundary and border, and reconnect city of Marseille and its seaport.


In the urban design, it's about making connections with spaces and people, urban fabric and buildings, policy decision and construction. We try to investigate ideas and theories from urban phenomena, and improve the built form of city and settlement to make our city working more effectively. Human settlements, from village to metropolis are messy. Many complicated and complex spatial composition process like national border, regional settings and infrastructure built based on the human behavior, politics, economic forces, capitalization and globalization. Therefore, examining the meanings of complexity and identity of these construction is more important in this essay.

In the case of the Mediterranean context, the phenomenon of global and regional tourism and transport network and the construction of national/regional identities collapse within the remnant of spaces perceivably. Issues such as the regional antagonism, division of national border, geopolitical domination and finally ideology and competition in a global scale acquire a paradigmatic value in the context of the Mediterranean territory. Most importantly, the cultural and political history of the Mediterranean necessitates a discussion that expands into a complex urban matter, so a spatial material that should be studied. And the products of the politics and economy of city should have to be evaluated as elements of the complex mechanisms that formulate our cities in spatial and temporal terms. Moreover, to move beyond it in an operative way. Aiming to re-think the elements that regulate spaces on the territory and to intervene within their organizational patterns.

Further, with the national states all around the world are increasingly unable to regulate transportation of population and goods, and it can be seen that everything has become de-centered and de-territorialized in term of scale. Marseille, France, shows itself as a specific site of complexity research in the Mediterranean. From the perspective of location, economy and social status of Marseille. Throughout its history and territorial setting, the city of Marseille expended with development of its harbor. The old port of Marseille further formed a high density of city center. Moreover, the evolution of economical and physical relations have modify the shape of the port, also the shape of the city. Since Marseille is located as a crossroad in the Mediterranean. Its port always treated as a gateway of transiting people and goods. Up to now, the port of Marseille is still one of major commercial ports in the Mediterranean for cargos and passengers and also has a very significant position in the world global exchange. At the Social level, duo to its location in the Mediterranean, Marseille has a very complex social network, attracting many immigrants and made Marseille to be a cosmopolitan melting pot , unlike other major French cities like Paris or Lyon. On the end of the 18th century about half of its population originated from elsewhere in Provence mostly. And in 1960s, there was a arrival of large numbers of people from Algeria. Many immigrants have settled and provided the city of Marseille a French-African with a large market. The city served as an entrance port for over a million immigrants to France.

Chapter 1 : the phenomenon of migration in Marseille

As the largest seaport of France, Marseille has always seen as a melting pot of culture and people. Its location makes it became a gateway to the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East. Throughout its history the city of Marseille has aggregated serial flows of immigrants from Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey and North Africa in 18 centuries to 19 centuries. This position of immigration in France has been deeply influenced by the policy of colonialism of previous centuries and the tradition of employing foreign labor for the process of industrialization. Besides, in 1962, when the Algerian war ended, there were about approximately 150,000 people moved to Marseille. Through the 1960s and 1970s, estimating the number of Muslim of North Africans immigrated to Marseille at about two million. After the economic crisis in early 1970s, France stopped all the policy of employment for foreign labor. However, this tactics didn't decrease in immigration. On the contrary, many original immigrants tried to settle in France and brought their families to join them. Therefore, reunification of household has become another most significant measure and issue of immigration. Because of its topography, the whole city of Marseille enclosed by the seaport and mountains. Marseille didn't have enough spaces to build a "banlieue" which is a suburb of a large city with several autonomous administrative districts like Paris. Thus, many races in Marseille were forced to gather in the same area with cultural and social conflicts. Put differently, Marseille is a city which gathering multi-cultures but dissension with each race with social and cultural tensions. Because Marseille is lack of appropriate regulations on immigrants, the city is now facing with the serious economic and social problems of immigrant population that suffers from increasingly high rate of unemployment and

crime. Therefore, the way of immigrants moving to Marseille, the system of border control and the way of how immigrants integrate into Marseille will become urgent issues in the future.

Boundary and border in Marseille

Furthermore, the city of Marseille had a very close relationship with ocean. With the development of seaport, many infrastructure especially transportation system established to support city of Marseille, but this transition caused the city gradually divided into several parts with different urban patterns and functions. The port of Marseille is located near the center of city as a place closed to the dehumanizing atmosphere.One of the great difficulties of the terrain are railway nearby the seaport and in the raised portion of highway.They are perceived by pedestrians as a border, a barrier to the sea. The whole boundary area amplified by multiple walls, fences, and the coastline isolated by port facilities and international zone of ferries. These physical structures were elements with dual function of connection and separation, even being linked to sociological and international position like marginalization and exclusion and being built as a barrier or wall to restrict and control specific spaces.

Statement of Boundary and border

Boundary and border are multidimensional elements in urban space - from the national scale like national border barrier to the urban scale like airport and seaport. One of definition of ‘boundary and border’ is about " The boundaries define a space of containers and places(the traditional domain of architecture), while the networks established a space of links and flows. Walls, fences and skins divide paths, pipes and wire connections."( William J . Mitchell). On the other hand , it can be seem that the borders are produced by human beings to secure or control urban spaces. As a artificial product they are modifiable and shapeable processes and not a general motionless structure or material. Ante goes further to explain that a marginal space with poor or no settlement that divides two areas from each other. This transitional space is reduced to a line on the map or a built fence.(Ante,1995:432) Morphologically, physical and linear boundary like railway and highway take the directional function in the city and are related to lines for the areas they are dividing and connecting. Kevin Lynch argues in “The Image of the City”(Lynch,2007:78-80) that boundary and border are one of the crucial materials of the city for its whole functioning. Although the function of boundary is a very significant one for the perspective of the city, I found out that boundaries can't be simplified to morphological lines in the urban planning. Furthermore, these physical linear boundaries have their own features formed by spatial, institutional and legal meanings, and also by social, economic or political alteration, that continually separate the urban space again. Therefore the aim of this essay is three-folds. First, discussing the types of boundary and border such as linear infrastructure and international border and examining the impacts of different formation of boundary in three cases: 1. physical boundary in Taipei 2. political boundary - Berlin wall 3. national border between U.S and Mexico. Second, discussing how do contemporary architects deal with the issue of boundary. Third, I will claim my position about tackling with urban boundaries - blurring boundaries with a precise design approach - "The urban lobby". And then this idea will be directed against to deal with the boundaries between city of Marseille and its seaport.

Chapter 2 : definition of physical boundaries

definition I - formed bylinear infrastructure

Linear infrastructure is the economy's blood supply. Roads, highway, railway move and connect people and goods in cities; utilities bring in essential services and remove waste. But these practical linear structures formed in continuous which built on the surface of ground or over-ground formed the physical boundaries visually, even controlling movement and separating activities and urban pattern of the city. From the perspective of Kevin Lynch, "Edges are the linear elements not used or considered as paths by the observer, they are the boundaries between two phases, linear breaks in continuity: shores, railroad cuts, edges of development, walls." (Lynch,2007:47). Although these boundaries probably not as ruling as paths and may be barriers with less penetrable to cross movement, are important for many people to added expression to urban patterns, acting as the surface and defining the mass of spaces. The linear infrastructure not only created physical barriers on the ground but also affected the impression of the city with the overhead infrastructure. Additionally, they decreased land values like separating the continuity of urban activities and blocks, and decreasing qualities of urban environment surrounding these structures. This phenomenon made more accessory spaces like industrial factories / recycling factories / parking spaces gathering at surrounding of linear structure.

case I - physical boundaries in Taipei

definition II - formed by territorial/national border

Throughout the twentieth century, The International Law define that "Boundaries of territory or nation are the imaginary lines on the surface of the earth which separate the territory of one state from that of another, or from unappropriated territory, or from the open sea."(Oppenheim. L, 1905. p253). However these lines are not only imaginary, people built the practical construction of system or wall as a natural and reasonable act of defense, restriction and security control from nation to nation - control of border barrier and from city to city - airport and seaport, which also divided one area from that of another by national politics or private owners. "Authority produces space through . . .cutting it up, differentiating between parcels of space, the use and abuse of borders and markers, the production of scales (from the body, through the region and the nation, to the globe), the control of movement within and across different kinds of boundaries." (Pile, S. 1997. p3). Although people built the boundaries(borders) of the city for defense and domination, sometimes just was a symbolic one, these physical boundaries(borders) sometimes were being expensive to maintain, inefficient and be corrupted by bureaucrat. But physically, socially, politically, these boundaries(borders) undeniably built a protected way of sovereign rights and public security. Therefore, with the development of globalization and flows of immigration, the boundaries(borders) seem to be redefined as new opportunity for productive public space.

case II - national border between U.S and Mexico

In the following part of the essay I will give an example of the national border as a multidimensional code. It is based on the research between U.S and Mexico border barrier.

"The U.S - Mexico border barrier appears distinctive in purpose, function, and construction among the many walls being built around the world, dividing the Global North from the Global South and aimed primarily at northward flows of illegal drugs and immigrants."(Brown, W. 2010. p35.) Furthermore, according to figures provided by The International Boundary, the length of border is about 3,145km, cutting across a variety of terrains, ranging from the urban areas to desolate environment. But it is the most frequently crossed international border in the world, with approximately 3.5 million people of legal crossings annually. The border is a impressively large and expensive structure with sixty-foot-high steel and concrete barrier as a substantial fence, composing of cameras, sensors, watchtowers and other detection technologies to maintain the border's function. However, under this situation, there were still approximately 0.5 million illegal immigrants from Mexico escaped the border barrier into United States per year. (Government Accountability Office. 2006. p42.) Besides, since 1990s, there were more than 150 secret underground tunnels have been found along the border between U.S and Mexico. The document shows that smugglers and criminals continuously transit the illegal drugs and immigrants into United States despite U.S customs keep reinforcing the system and construction of border barrier in recent years. (Lichtenwald, T. and Perri, F.S. 2011.) Furthermore, the cost of maintaining and establishing fence security was surprisingly increase to $60 billion over twenty-five years, this cost excludes the funded labor and remuneration to private-property owners.(Brown, W. 2010. p37.)

The border controlseemingly decreases illegal crossings effectively, however, this intensification of construction compound the problems about more original illegal migrants trying to settle in the United States permanently, and also increased the cost of one-direction illegal migration to in the United States. In the other words, the border is a conflicting issue on the security and economic, the country won't open borders for free flows of labor, goods and services from another without security. But on the other hand, both the condition of country are always unequal, people in poor condition still desire to move to the better one. Furthermore, many employers also tend to hire illegal labor from the other side with lower payments. These reasons caused the trend of illegal migration will be continued despite of the reinforce of border control. Thus, it seems that we can't only treat the border as one simple construction of control or a gate for immigrating and emigrating, but also treat it as a transitory space or zone that has more opportunities to rethink the issue of migration and the phenomenon of segregation in cities.

Chapter 3 : case study of dealing with boundaries

Case study - Rem Koolhaas

Exodus, The Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture.

Chapter 4 : Position : open boundaries - The urban lobby

The function of south seaport of Marseille is about transporting immigrants, goods and wheeled cargos, and receiving tourists from other countries. In order to ensuring the safety of country and people, the port built a series of complex fences for security control. This border formed by the economic, social and political division. Unlike a linear border building on the territory, the port of Marseille seems like a space of control near the border - borderland, occupying one side of the city to its coastline. Besides, the system of custom control in seaport seems like unwelcome and unfriendly for tourists and immigrants. It's easy to achieve the control of immigration by strict legal regulation. However, how do we deal with the spatial issue about immigrants in Marseille? I proposed to open the boundaries with the idea of the urban lobby, which is cited from the function of airports' lobby. This engagement not only open up the opportunities for new forms of communication and public spaces, but also recreating a series of intermediate space like autonomous regions between the city of Marseille and its seaport, which offer immigrants the better opportunities to settle , work and adapt with other races and local culture.

Conclusion -

References -

Ante, U.(1995). Grenze, in: Handworterbuch Der Raumordnung. pp. 432–436.

Aureli, V.P.(2010). The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture.

Brown, W.(2010). Walled states, waning sovereignty. pp. 35–42.

Graham, S. and Simon, M.(2001). Splintering urbanism: networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition.

Lynch, K.(2007). The Image of the City. pp. 78-80

Mezzadra, S and Neilson, B. (2008) Border as Method.

Weizman, E. (2007) Hollow Land.

Sorkin, M. (2005) Against The Wall: Israel's Barrier to Peace.