Historic Marseille building is repurposed as retail, with wabi-sabi decrepitude on display

In Japan, folks tend to appreciate the uniqueness of a flaw or irregularity in the new product: it gives it personality: making it an object only one person owns. They appreciate the decrepitude of an old object. This appreciation of the perfection of imperfection is called wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

And now, wabi sabi comes to a brand new store in the historic center of Marseille, France. There, you’ll find the Marseille Cathedral, known in French as Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille or Cathédrale de la Major.

It’s both a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a French national monument. The cathedral was just a basilica minor from 1896 to 1948, when it was elevated to be the seat of the Archdiocese of Marseille.

And now, in the vault under this ancient structure. you’ll find a “lifestore” called Essentiel is conducting a “space experiment”.

It’s an experiment because the vault has basically been preserved as-is, without masking the many lives, transformations, works, and especially the patina of time.

All this accumulated personality has been showcased and enhanced with a warm light by the designers at Rémy MARCIANO architecte.

Inside, the layout reflects the philosophy of the place; be in harmony with nature, adding to the pleasures of both food and fashion.

To create these ideal conditions, the architects imagined a forest that separates the vault and creates a filter between the shop space and the restaurant.

The waxed concrete floor refers to a natural material, a mineral that is also found for the treatment of the concrete bar raw and polished stainless steel.

In the ceiling, the lighting evokes a starry sky. It comprises bulbs that seem to grow from the ceiling like a rain of stars.

Upstairs, like cabins in the trees, muted offices welcome wellness appointments, and a beachlike spot also offers visitors a place to let go, with feet in the sand.

See Rémy MARCIANO architecte website.

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