Saskia Tideman

Explore Lab

Palimpsest facade materialising Marseille’s (post) colonial heritage

From Shady Heritage towards an Architecture of Frictional Empathy

The ominous concrete panels loom as you trail your fingers against the facade, rust-stained grit collecting under your nails. In search of an explanation, you look around, catching a glimpse of follies evoking Morocco, Vietnam, Algeria, Madagascar…and yet you are here, in Marseille. What is this place?

The Parc Chanot once hosted Marseille’s colonial exhibitions, but today it is an anonymous convention centre telling the tale of a society struggling to come to grips with a shady inheritance. This project investigates how architecture can contribute to historical transparency and social well-being.

The design carries out four interventions to make history visible. Past facades are merged into one, a disused framework is repurposed, the palimpsest is carved into the ground, and follies give a physical presence to lost colonial pavilions. Without dictating a collective meaning, the intervention holds a mirror up to Marseille, providing tolerances, allowing for friction and nurturing empathy.