CMA CGM Headquarters

The new tower for CMA CGM in Marseille, France rises from the site in a metallic curving arc that slowly lifts from the ground and accelerates to a straight vertical line. The volumes of the tower are generated from a number of gradual, or measured, centripetal vectors that emerge from within the ground datum, gently converge towards each other, and then curve away towards its ultimate co-ordinate 100 metres above the ground. These vectors trace the structural columns that define, and are enclosed within, a double façade system. The Tower is a tectonic interplay between a fixed structural core and this peripheral array of columns that results in a dynamic symbiosis. Master Plan Marseille, the second largest city in France, is a historic Provençale city centred around a centuries-old port, with a rich past of several ancient cultures: Phoenician, Greek and Roman. Because of the city’s naval history, there is an opportunity to provide a highly visible landmark building. This new tower will exist as a vertical icon and interact with the vertical landmarks of La Major, the Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde, the Fort St. Jean, and the Chateau d’If in the urban city fabric of Marseille. The immediate vicinity of the Mirabeau site reveals a field of indeterminate medium to low-rise post-war buildings. At an urban scale, flowing past the site on both sides is an elevated viaduct that bifurcates at the western edge of the parcel. A new off-ramp proposed where the viaduct splits would provide direct vehicular access to the project site. At a smaller scale of surface streets and pedestrian routes, a multi-modal transport exchange allows pedestrian and mass transit connectivity. Furthermore, the quai and its waterways lie adjacent to the project site. Directly at the confluence of this dynamic urban movement, the new Tower would accentuate its verticality and create a signature feature that would set a commanding new presence. Taxonomy In office towers, the standard design protocol creates a uniform plate that is replicated a number of times to minimize construction time and cost. The design focus therefore becomes marginalized to the building envelope and perhaps a scuptural interior atrium entry. The programme of the CMA CGM Tower building has an inherent division that supports this ‘morph’ : the upper floors are similar office spaces while the lower floors contain spaces that call for a continuous, horizontal arrangement. The lower portion then becomes shaped to allow for more generous accommodation. The columns are also placed on the exterior to minimize disruption while the curving profiles act together with the core to provide a rigid frame and give a sense of movement and freedom to a new typology of tower.


26 photos and 7 drawings

Building Activity

  • Georgi Sokolov
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