Federation for
Housing and

Yes We Camp Marseille 2013

While Marseille is preparing itself to become European Capital of Culture, a group of urban professionals initiated an urban campsite project on a contributive model.

Emerging in a changing city 

The idea of the Camping 2013 came up with a simple observation : Marseille is expecting millions of visitors as European Capital of Culture in 2013[1], but you cannot find any camping at less than 30 km from the city. The city counts a lot of underused spaces though, in particular in its former industrial areas.

Following global trends of European port cities, planning actors in Marseille bet on the re-development of port areas, particularly those close to the historical centre. Raw materials and goods terminals are moved away and make way to cruise terminals. Commercial and cultural equipmentsemerge on the docks. Those radical planning choices are part of a wider action plan to transform the city image, with the hope of a positive economic impact. In the same perspective, a lot of efforts are made to attract international events of all sorts, such as the European Capital of Culture label.

In both strategies of re-development and event marketing, several critics focused on the insufficient inclusion of local actors in the early stages of operations. The emergence of original projects initiated by civil-society gives then the opportunity to explore alternative ways to think and practice urban planning.

A collaborative platform

More than enlarging the accommodation offer, the Camping 2013 concept may be understood as a platform for different actors to meet and innovate. The project is a collective work in which anyone, from neighbours to urban professionals, can make propositions to enrich the campsite or give a hand in its realisation. This approach could be identified as collaborative crowdsourcing, volunteers putting their skills and ideas in common to make the project evolve.

In its spatial configuration as well, the Camping is thought as a meeting place, a village. Located in a port area, next to l'Estaque neighbourhood, it should host a large range of activities on 4000 m² - workshops, local information office, catering and gardening among others, proposed by some local associations and businesses. Another core idea of the project is to invite some artists in residence who will contribute to the uniqueness of the place. Visitors willing to spend a night on the site may be able to chose among tents, caravans, cabanons (cabins) and even yurts. More generally, every person entering the site might become an actor of the Camping.

Experimenting sustainability

Such an opportunity to create a temporary piece of multifunctional city, opens an experimentation field for sustainable urban planning practices. A special attention is given to the environmental issue, especially building materials (recycled or reusable, second hand materials and furnitures) and water saving (collect of showers wastewater for plants, composting toilets). Besides, the site is located next to public transport services (bus and boat), connecting with the core centre in 20 minutes.

The camping should be opening from May to September, after a two-months construction phase. 

Before then, a prototype open to the public will be settled in the cultural quarter la Friche Belle de Mai, on January 12th and 13th. It will be the opportunity to test structures and uses in the light of legal regulations and space functionality. The prototype's budget has been gathered thanks to a crowdfunding internet platform[2]. The association Yes We Camp, who manages the project, tries to self-finance the whole operation as much as possible. They bet on the incomes the Camping would generate during its opening period, and on the growing number of volunteers. If the project receives a contribution of Marseille 2013 Off[3] and is sponsored by a scaffolding firm, the association is still looking for one more sponsor to complete the budget. The initiators would like to demonstrate that such grassroots projects can take shape far from institutional support. If the operation succeeds, it could open perspectives for civil society initiatives and give some fresh air to local planning practices.

[1]    Along with Košice, Slovakia.


[3]    For the first time in European Capital of Culture's history, a 'off' program has been initiated by some local artists,