Visit the historic French city of Marseille and you’re immediately struck by two things. Firstly, this is a city with history that stretches back to ancient times. And secondly, it’s a city that has made its fortunes through maritime trade. That’s why it comes as no surprise to find out that the city’s tallest landmark – the CMA-CGM Tower is the headquarters of the world’s third largest container sea transport company.
When the CMA-CGM Tower was first planned in 2004, it was a project designed to transform the skyline of the city. The site and size of the building were never up for discussion. It had to be big enough to provide office space for the two thousand employees of CMA-CGM shipping corporation, who were at that time spread out over seven sites. What’s more, it had to be built on the exact spot where the company was founded by Jacques Saadé in 1978 – a site with view over the mountains and the sea in the business district of Euromediterranée.
Bold and dramatic
The prize-winning London-based architect, Zaha Hadid won the commission to design the building and it bears her characteristic hallmark in its daring geometrical design. The tower’s angled vertical lines and gently curving base give it a unique form that make it seem as it has been gently torn apart. As construction progressed and the tower started to take form, locals marvelled at its height that rivalled that of the basilica of Notre Dame de La Garde, another of the city’s landmarks.
Seven years later when it was finally completed, architecture lovers flocked to Marseilles to admire the city’s first skyscraper describing it as “revolutionary”, “elegant” and “fluid”. Hadid herself described the buildings as “Rising in a metallic curving arc that slowly lifts and accelerates skywards into the dramatic vertical geometry of its revolutionary forms.” Whatever adjectives are used, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a stunning building that refuses to be overlooked.
Staying cool while building tall
Building a building of this height in the heat of the south of France came with its own set of challenges. The glass façade is the largest surface of the building and had to consider both the merciless Mediterranean
One of the ways this was solved was with the use of ventilated façade insulation cladding. This is often used in warmer climates as it improves heat regulation and maintains the ambient temperature inside the building. The CMA-CGM Tower uses Rockfaçade, a natural stone wool product that can help prevent water damage and protect against mould by ensuring any rainwater drains away to protect the inner layer of the building.
Once installed Rockfaçade contributes to energy savings by reducing ventilation costs. This reduces the building’s carbon footprint, which fits closely with the company’s focus on sustainable globalization and solutions that are respectful of the planet and our natural environment.
Alongside the many benefits for indoor climate, the ventilated facade offers exceptional protection against fire. As a material, it is non-combustible and can withstand temperatures of over 1000°C without melting. These outstanding properties have earnt Rockfaçade an A1 rating in the European Reaction to Fire classification – the highest possible rating.