Box set: a Marseilles sculpture park is putting the fabulous back into prefab
In 2016, Paris-based design dealer Eric Touchaleaume – known for re-popularising the works of seminal European architects and designers of the early 20th century – unveiled the Friche de l’Dscalette, a one-of-a-kind sculpture and architectural park on the outskirts of Marseilles, the French port city on the Mediterranean.
According to its founder, the park was established to ‘protect the poetry of the place, and to foster the philosophies shared by Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret, le Corbusier, and the people of Marseilles’.
Following last year’s presentation of demountable Prouvé houses, this summer’s programme has gone retro-futuristic with ‘Utopie Plastic’, a collection of prefabricated houses and other design ephemera from the late 1960s and early 70s.
Futuro House, designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen (1933-2013) in 1968
Among the remarkable structures that have touched down are the Hexacube by Georges Candilis and Anja Blomstedt, originally intended as a part of a mobile beach community; Maison Bulle by French designer Jean-Benjamin Maneval, comprising six bubble-like shells; and the UFO-shaped Futuro House, originally designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as a transportable ski chalet.
The structures, scattered around the site, are complemented by plastic furniture by designers including Quasar Khanh, Wendell Castle and Maurica Calka. Taken together, the exhibition captures the unique application of the quintessential post-war material as well as the utopian spirit of the times. While it wasn’t to last: the idiosyncratic design milieu, which began in the mid-50s, fizzled out following the 1970s oil crisis, the movement has achieved interest and increasing market prices.
After a visit to the park, one can see why these innovative and colorful structures deserve a new life, appearing all the more surreal when set against the park’s agrarian backdrop, which resembles an archaeological dig complete with brick archways, pine trees and crumbling ramparts.