It is the construction site of all superlatives and is currently doing well in Monaco. In the Anse du Portier sector, the project to create a new 6-hectare neighborhood from scratch, advancing over the sea, is now entering its final stretch. This challenge launched in 2015 aimed to create new opportunities for the economic and demographic growth of a small Principality in its 2 km² territory. And this advance over the sea that takes the form of a ecological neighborhood named Mareterra (between land and sea) it is the seventh of its kind launched around Rocha since 1907.
In more than a century (between Port Hercule, Fontvieille and Larvotto), more than 55 hectares have already been removed from the sea in Monaco and, since the 1970s, these extensions have made it possible to build 840,000 m² there, that is, a quarter of the Monegasque buildings . Mareterra is therefore a continuation of a trend (and perhaps not the last extension), while also creating a series of breaks with the past. It is, therefore, the first ecodistrict in the Principality and an extension that is certainly completely artificial, but of which 40% of the surface will be vegetable. An exception and a future island of freshness in a city that remains very mineral.
“Mareterra is proof that we can build on water in a rational and reasonable way, explains Guy-Thomas Lévy-Soussan, managing director of the Monegasque Development Company (SAM) L’Anse du Portier, responsible for this program. This works ecologically and economically, while minimizing the environmental impact of the project, in line with the sovereign’s objectives.” It is true that the project to create the Bouygues site was carried out with a wealth of care and environmental monitoring that was light years from what we could observe in the Dubai. This is how the posidonias, seagrasses essential to the underwater biodiversity of the Mediterranean, present in the area, were transplanted to the neighborhood where some of them have already established themselves well. And when the land was filled in, the fish were removed one by one. Not to mention the improvements made to the Jarlan rooms, these concrete boxes where the waves break and on which the floor is laid. Its texture was completely redesigned to facilitate the installation of algae and paths were created for fish to enter and hide there.
It must also be said that all this attention is possible thanks to the incredible economic benefits expected from the project. SAM L’Anse du Portier, which supervises all the marketing of the 130 apartments, 10 villas and 4 “townhouses” in the project, does not communicate the lowest value, contenting itself with explaining that it has positioned itself “at market prices”. When we know that Monaco holds the world record for the most expensive square meter, with average prices exceeding 50,000 euros per square meter and recent constructions sought which can reach 100,000 or even 120,000 euros, calculations are done quickly. Adding the fact that the “smallest” units in this exceptional program are houses measuring 350 to 400 m² with an average of around 600 m² and houses easily exceeding 2000 m², we understand that the unit of account for buyers here is tens of millions of euros.
And aren’t these millionaires and billionaires afraid of seeing their investment submerged within a few years? “The increase in water levels is indeed an issue raised by our customers, admits Guy-Thomas Lévy-Soussan. But here too we have taken enormous precautions and are better protected against storms, splashing water and submersion than 99% of the coast and adjacent areas.” It is true that the lowest levels, corresponding to the 2nd basement, are located at 2.15 meters above sea level, 1 meter above the caution thresholds. The inhabited areas are therefore located at least 7 meters above the water and the port piers themselves are 2.5 meters from the sea, with a system that allows the pontoons to be raised by 1 meter. There should therefore be no specific water evacuation equipment, unlike the neighboring Grimaldi forum, built on a drainage base, which requires the operation of 13 lift pumps.
In all cases, Mareterra diversifies the Monegasque offer. “Albert II of Monaco clearly wanted us to build here what did not exist and which meets the expectations of our international clientele: large units that can accommodate families who can afford them”, highlights Guy-Thomas Lévy-Soussan. And to ensure that we have a truly motivated clientele, SAM L’Anse du Portier requires that final buyers are received individually at the company’s headquarters where a discreet showroom with a model is installed. Here there is no intermediary, no steward or right-hand man, only the final buyer is received. If we do not know what was sold and at what price, we will be satisfied with knowing that “the majority of the offer has already been sold to a predominantly European clientele that quite accurately reflects the nationalities present in Monaco (Italians, Belgians, Swiss, British, Germans, etc.)”. Proof that the new offer hit home: 50% of future residents are buying for the first time in Monaco. On the other hand, there are no French on the horizon, although there are almost 9,000 of them in the Principality.
A project that is moving forward
Further proof that this is an extraordinary project: the program advanced 6 months ahead of schedule, opting to prepare in advance the foundations of the largest building in the complex that would originally end the project and which was finally launched first. Result: the entire program must be delivered in exactly one year. “This six-month advance is a real problem, laughs Guy-Thomas Lévy-Soussan, because for three months we will have to mobilize 100% of the Monegasque state services involved in this delivery that was not scheduled for the end of 2024, but for mid-2025.
While awaiting this delivery, the site is operating at full capacity, with 2,300 people and 300 companies involved. All this for just 140 housing units. The big names in architecture were asked, first of all, Renzo Piano, who had already worked in the neighboring Larvotto beach district and who will provide stylistic continuity to the large building that will bear his first name. He took the opportunity to install some of his iconic air vents that can be found in the Pompidou center or the Larvotto neighborhood. The Parisian office Valode et Pistre Architectes is responsible for the overall planning of the project, as well as the construction of four buildings and ten individual villas. Furthermore, two villas are entrusted to Tadao Ando, one to Norman Foster and the other to Stefano Boeri, the Italian architect to whom we owe Milan’s vertical forests.
“The idea developed for this project is to give it the most natural appearance possible, specifies Denis Valode. The perimeter of the extension precisely follows the isobath (depth curve, the marine equivalent of surface contour curves, editor’s note) at a depth of 30 meters so as not to disturb sea currents. And the other strong point is the creation of a hill, a relief that allows us to understand that the sea revolves around it. Indeed, the place is marked by permanent differences in height with villas and houses of 2 to 7 levels, buildings of 9 to 12 levels for those in Valode and Pistre and even 15 to 18 levels for Renzo. The artificial hill now houses the extension of the Grimaldi Forum, a neighboring convention center and could house a museum or other uses.
At the moment everything is still very concrete, but the landscaping of the site will be coordinated by the famous landscaper Michel Desvignes. “In total, around 1,000 trees will be planted in this location, including large pine trees that have been acclimatized to the seaside for years”, specifies Denis Valode. These first major subjects were also positioned very recently. But one of the successes of this project, already evident, is its perfect integration into the Monegasque landscape and the additional services that the site will offer to Monegasques and visitors.
Certainly, the site will continue to be the most luxurious enclave in the most expensive city in the world and its villas, in particular, will be protected from view behind cleverly created walls and differences in levels. But the site will also be very open to the city. This will particularly be the case with the 500-metre public seafront promenade, which will be open 24 hours a day and will extend across the 500-metre Larvotto promenade. Enough to start competing with the Tour of the English or the Croisette, in a city that was previously quite isolated from the sea. Especially because the tour will offer two new surprises: a “meditation space” currently being installed with skylights and quartz panels installed by a Vietnamese artist or even with public access under the slab to show the concrete boxes where the waves hit and their shelters. for fish.
A ceiling on stilts
Furthermore, Mareterra will allow the Grimaldi Forum to be expanded by 10,000 m², which is extremely necessary to host large events. Finally, the site will have 160 underground public spaces to accommodate visitors. The latter will be able to access the public park with its hill and its water basins and its Japanese pagoda designed by a Japanese master and imported especially from the Empire of the Rising Sun to replace the old pagoda that marked the entrance to the Japanese garden in the city. Finally, 4,000 m² of commercial space for around ten restaurants and shops complete this program and a “small” port, with the capacity to accommodate boats of up to 16 meters, far from the format of the Principality’s yachts.
If for now the silhouette of the immense Renzo floating on its stilts is almost final, the ultra-luxury villas are barely visible, as they will complete the project. “Each one will have its own swimming pool and, like all the accommodations in the program, they will have sea and mountain views from the ground floor, explains Denis Valode. What sets this program apart is the care taken in every detail, the quality of the materials and green spaces as well as the work carried out on sun protection.”