Les Docks: the heart of Marseille's maritime strategy
Les Docks are the symbol of the expansion and prosperity period that Marseille knew in the 19th century. Indeed, the end of barbarian piracy, industrial and technological innovations (invention of steam navigation) and colonial conquests contributed to boost maritime trade and thus the prosperity of the city. Marseille experienced strong economic and demographic growth. It is became imperative to readjust infrastructures to these new challenges. The construction of Les Docks meets these requirements and corresponds to an extension of the port to the north. Indeed, Marseille is one of the first ports in the world and the Lacydon port was too small. Loading and unloading work was made difficult by these conditions.
The Compagnie des Docks et Entrepôts de Marseille
In 1853, the municipality finally decided to establish docks on properties transferred by the State, their exploitation was entrusted to a private company. Paulin Talabot, who headed the Compagnie Des Docks et Entrepôts de Marseille, was in charge of managing the docks and is the first to understand that a modern port must be linked to rail transport. This is how the railway entered directly into the heart of the Docks. The docks were thus built in Lazaret, where it was possible to store 150,000 tonnes of merchandise, which could then be transported via the rail line to Lyon or Paris. The Compagnie des Docks et Entrepôts de Marseille commissioned the work to the young architect Gustave Desplaces. The construction extended from 1858 to 1864.
The birth of the Docks
Marseille acquired a real port, worthy of its status as the "Gateway to the East".
The style chosen is directly inspired by the London docks but has a rather unique feature. The complex includes 4 warehouses around four courtyards, to symbolize the four seasons. The 52 doors correspond to the number of weeks, and there are seven levels corresponding to the number of days in a week. The entire building is 365 meters long, representing the number of days in a year. The entire building remained functional until 1988, when the industrial activity of Les Docks was stopped and the premises were abandoned.
A new breath for Les Docks
In 1991, SARI bought Les Docks. As early as 1992, work began and the docks were gradually restored with the aim of respecting the original architecture and preserving a part of Marseille's history intact. The architect Eric Castaldi imagined the new docks as a Mediterranean agora opening onto the district. The opening is in the center of the project, the windows have been enlarged, part of the roof has been replaced by glass roofs creating atriums. An interior street allows traffic from one building to another. Today, everything has been completely renovated and the restored buildings now house administrations, some 220 companies employ more than 3000 people. The pleasure of the eyes is not to be outdone, the inner courtyards are highlighted, basins are appearing. The ground floor is occupied by shops, bars and restaurants, ensuring the friendliness of the place during the day but also in the evening. With the opening of the large shopping center "Terrasses du Port" which is located just in front of Les Docks, the Joliette district is undergoing a renaissance. Once again the future of the Phocaean metropolis passes through Les Docks which attracts people coming to visit Marseille.
The architecture of this unusual building attracts tourists and architecture lovers. Its bars, restaurants and shops make it a lively place, appreciated by the people of Marseille. You can choose to rent a bike or a segway to get there faster!
And for those who want to visit Marseille as a family, why not opt for the Petit Train de Marseille? You will be able to walk the streets of the Phocaean City to discover its history. A fun way to discover the monuments of Marseille.