MuCEM: The Architecture of Marseille’s Museum

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Long Slow Kiss

The art critic Robert Hughes described Chartres cathedral as a great call from man to God. The call, made from the summit of a hill, insists, “We are here. See Us.” Now in Marseille we have a new call, a boldly spoken, exquisitely beautiful psalm: The Mucem.

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It is not Christian. But it is. But it is not. The outer concrete surface manages to simultaneously echo the stained glass windows of traditional churches and the calligraphic contours of a mosque. Allah and his prophet are resolutely within the building. We must bear in mind that throughout its long recorded history, which begins with Greeks sailing from Turkey, Marseille has always given home to the entire panoply of peoples who inhabit the Mediterranean. Even the French state, so belligerently insistent on a policy of integration rather than multi-culturalism, have here surrendered to the reality of Marseille, a fluid manifold reality which Mucem…

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