Home>Study trip to Marseille: Exploring Metropolitan Challenges


Study trip to Marseille: Exploring Metropolitan Challenges


The study trip of the 2024 cohort of students from the Master's in Regional and Urban Strategy (STU) took place in Marseille and its metropolitan area from February 5th to February 9th, 2024.


The Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolis, established in 2016 at the State's initiative, encompasses 1.6 million inhabitants and 92 municipalities despite initial reluctance from many municipalities. It covers almost the entire territory of the Bouches-du-Rhône department and thus extends over a considerable area. The territory is physically fragmented and composed of highly diverse environments, from the Crau plain to the mountains surrounding Marseille, from the Etang de Berre basin to the plateaus and plains of Aix and Salon. This area is marked by very pronounced economic and social contrasts and major political divisions between municipalities and the strata that make up the metropolis. For further information, read Professor Éric Verdeil's article on Social inequality and fiscal contributions in the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, Academic Director of the STU Master's programme.

The rationale behind the metropolis is to bring unity to the governance of public policies at the metropolitan level, particularly regarding transportation and economic development. It also aims to address differentiated legacies regarding infrastructure and quality of life. Needs vary greatly across territories: several localities or neighborhoods are in urgent situations due to housing degradation, as illustrated by the deadly collapses on Rue d'Aubagne in Marseille and their aftermath or the issues of drug trafficking and associated violence. The 2020 municipal elections reflected a demand for change. The State has emerged as a major actor in territorial policies.

The objective of the trip was twofold: firstly, to grasp the geographical, social, and economic complexity of the territory; secondly, through meetings with most of the territory's stakeholders, to understand their visions and projects, the modalities of working together, as well as the challenges of dialogue and implementation. Students also met with residents, associations, and economic actors to understand the challenges of daily life and how residents envision their collective future.

We want to extend our sincere thanks to all those who helped us develop this program and honored us with their reception:

  • the municipal team of the City of Marseille (particularly Mr. Aurélien LECINA),
  • the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis team and its Transport and Mobility Division,
  • Prefect Christophe MIRMAND and his collaborator Salomé BATAILLE,
  • the municipal team of the City of Martigues (particularly Ms. Delphine PARENTI), and Ms. Sophie BERTRAN de BALANDA,
  • and all the diverse individuals and organizations involved in this program who agreed to dedicate their time, share their knowledge, and engage with our students.

Excerpts from the visit program:

  • Meeting with the municipal team of the City of Marseille:
  Euroméditerranée project

Introduction - Marseille and the priorities of the municipal mandate.
Urban renewal: housing, urban policy, security, economy and commerce, Olympics, and major events.

  • Major construction projects (Saint-Charles, North and South coastlines, Parc Chanot...) and key issues (City-Port relationship, collaborative governance, public spaces, water).
  • Presentation of the Aix Marseille Provence Metropolis by Vincent FOUCHIER, Director of Prospective and Development Council, followed by the Metropolis' mobility policy.
  • Visit to ICI Marseille. Tiers-lieux, transitional urbanism, and urban development.
  • EUROMEDITERRANEE, presentation of the major urban development project by Stéphane GHIO, Director of Strategy and Innovation.
  • SPLA-IN Public Local Development Company of National Interest Aix Marseille Provence: the entity dedicated to addressing degraded private housing, presented by Franck CARO, Director.
  • City of Agriculture: Introduction to urban agriculture challenges and the Marseille food system. Visit to an urban farm and discussion of its local anchoring by Alina BEKKA, Prospective Pole Coordinator (graduate of the GLM Master's program).
  • Dual Marseille city, from the enclaved North to the closed residential South: visit to the Felix Pyat estate and the Sainte Marguerite neighborhood with Julien DARIO, 2020 City Thesis Prize winner, Geography of a fragmented city: morphogenesis, governance of routes, and impacts of residential closure in Marseille.
  • Meeting and discussions with Prefect Christophe MIRMAND at the Bouches-du-Rhône Prefecture.
  • Visit to the Friche Belle de Mai. Tour of the place, its history, and presentation of activities with Johan NICOLAS, Deputy Director.
  • Meeting with the municipal team of the City of Martigues:
    Discussions on the city's overall vision and its metropolitan aspect with Mayor Gaby CHARROUX.
    Past, ongoing, and future developments (industrial transformation, decarbonization, mobility, territorial balances, space preservation, etc.) with Delphine PARENTI, Deputy General Manager, DGA Housing, Urban Planning, City Policy, and Jérôme GARGUILO, Director of Urban Planning.
Prefecture (Bouches-du-Rhône)   
  • Visit to the Notre Dame des Marins social housing district in Martigues. Social challenges of urban redevelopment, social housing providers as major partners for local authorities, carrying out rehabilitation in a large complex, functional link with the city with Axel SAMUEL, Local Development and Proximity Directorate.
  • Marseille Fos Port Authority (GPMM). Visit to the industrial-port zone of the West Basins in Fos-sur-Mer with Rémi COSTANTINO, Deputy General Manager of GPMM.

Prefecture (Bouches-du-Rhône)

Euroméditerrané district

ICI Marseille

City of Martigues

Marseille City Hall

Cité des arts de la rue

Port of Fos-sur-Mer

Cité Félix Piat

Cité de l'Agriculture

Friche la Belle de Mai

Prefecture (Bouches-du-Rhône)

Euroméditerrané district