It is the construction site of all superlatives and it is currently going well at Monaco. In the Anse du Portier sector, the project to create from scratch a new 6-hectare district by advancing onto the sea is now entering its home stretch. This challenge launched in 2015 was intended to create new opportunities for the economic and demographic growth of a Principality cramped on its territory of 2 km². And this advance on the sea which takes the form of a eco-neighborhood baptized Mareterra (between land and sea) is already the seventh of its kind launched around the Rock since 1907.
In more than a century (between Port Hercule, Fontvieille and Larvotto), more than 55 hectares have already been taken from the sea in Monaco and since the 1970s, these extensions have made it possible to build 840,000 m² there, i.e. a quarter of Monegasque buildings. Mareterra is therefore a continuation of a trend (and will perhaps not be the last extension) while creating a number of breaks with the past. It is thus the first eco-district in the Principality and an extension that is certainly completely artificial, but of which 40% of the surface area will be vegetated. An exception and a future island of freshness in a city which remains very mineral.
“Mareterra is proof that we can build on water in a reasoned 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 site creation project by Bouygues was carried out with a wealth of precautions and environmental monitoring that was light years away from what we were able to see at Dubai. This is how the posidonia, these sea gres essential to underwater biodiversity in the Mediterranean, present in the area were transplanted into the neighborhood where some of them have already established themselves well. And when the land was backfilled, 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 ground is laid. Their texture has been completely reworked to facilitate the installation of algae and paths have been created for fish to come and hide there.
It must also be said that all this attention is made possible by the incredible economic benefits expected from the project. The SAM L’Anse du Portier, which oversees the entire marketing of the 130 apartments, 10 villas and 4 “townhouses” of the project, does not communicate the slightest figure, contenting itself with explaining that it has positioned itself “in 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, the calculations are quickly done. Add the fact that the “smallest” units in this exceptional program are homes of 350 to 400 m² with an average of around 600 m² and villas easily exceeding 2000 m², we understand that the unit of account for buyers here are tens of millions of euros.
And don’t these millionaires and billionaires fear seeing their investment submerged within a few years? “Rising water levels are indeed a subject raised by our customers, admits Guy-Thomas Lévy-Soussan. But here too we took enormous precautions and we are better protected against storms, splashes of water and submersion than 99% of the coastline and surrounding areas.” It is true that the lowest levels, corresponding to the 2nd bat, are located 2.15 meters above sea level, placing themselves 1 meter above the caution thresholds. The inhabited areas are therefore located at least 7 meters above the water and the port quays themselves are 2.5 meters from the sea with a system allowing 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 draining base, which requires running 13 lifting 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 corresponds to the expectations of our international clientele: large units that can accommodate families who can afford them”, underlines Guy-Thomas Lévy-Soussan. And to ensure that we have a truly motivated clientele, SAM L’Anse du Portier requires final buyers to be 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. Failing to learn what was marketed and at what price, we will be content to know that “most of the offering has already been sold to a predominantly European clientele reflecting quite precisely the nationalities present in Monaco (Italians, Belgians, Swiss, British, Germans, etc.)”. Proof that the novelty of the offer hit the mark: 50% of future residents are buying for the first time in Monaco. On the other hand, no French people on the horizon, even though there are almost 9,000 of them in the Principality.
A project that is making progress
Another proof that this is an extraordinary project: the program took 6 months ahead of the forecast schedule, by choosing to prepare in advance the foundations of the largest building of the complex which was to originally closed the project and which was finally launched first. Result: the entire program should be delivered in precisely 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 which was not planned for the end of 2024 but for mid-2025.
While waiting for this delivery, the site is running at full capacity, with 2,300 people and 300 companies involved. All this for only 140 housing units. The big names in architecture were solicited, first and foremost, Renzo Piano who had already worked for the neighboring Larvotto beach district and who will create stylistic continuity with the large building which 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 in the Larvotto district. The Parisian firm Valode et Pistre Architectes is responsible for the overall planning of the project as well as the construction of four buildings and ten individual homes. In addition, two villas are entrusted to Tadao Ando, one to Norman Foster and another to Stefano Boeri, the Italian architect to whom we owe the vertical forests of Milan.
“The idea developed for this project is to give it the most natural appearance possible, specifies Denis Valode. The perimeter of the extension thus precisely follows the isobath (depth curve, the maritime equivalent of surface contour curves, Editor’s note) at a depth of 30 meters so as not to disturb the sea currents. And the other strong point is the creation of a hill, a relief which allows us to understand that the sea revolves around it. Indeed, the place is marked by permanent differences in heights with villas and houses of 2 to 7 levels, buildings of 9 to 12 levels for those of Valode and Pistre and even 15 to 18 levels for Renzo. As for the artificial hill, it houses the extension of the Grimaldi Forum, the neighboring convention center and could accommodate a museum or other uses.
For the moment, everything is still very concreted but the greening of the place will be coordinated by the star landscaper, Michel Desvignes. “In all, there will be nearly 1,000 trees planted on this site, including large pines which have been acclimatized by the sea for years”, specifies Denis Valode. These first major subjects have also been positioned very recently. But one of the successes of this project which is already obvious is its perfect integration into the Monegasque landscape and the additional services that the place will offer to Monegasques and visitors alike.
Certainly, the place will remain the most luxurious enclave of 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 place will also be very open to the city. This will particularly be the case for the 500-meter public seaside promenade which will be open 24 hours a day and will extend the 500 meters of the Larvotto promenade. Enough to start competing with the Promenade des Anglais or the Croisette, in a city until then quite cut off from the sea. Especially since the promenade will offer two new surprises: a “meditation space” currently being installed with skylights and quartz panels installed by an artist Vietnamese or even public access under the slab to show the concrete boxes where the waves crash and their fish shelters.
A liner on stilts
Furthermore, Mareterra will enable the Grimaldi Forum to be expanded by 10,000 m², which is badly needed to host major events. Finally, the place will have 160 public underground parking 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 marking 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 as well as a “small” port, able to accommodate boats of up to 16 meters, far from the format of the Principality’s yachts.
If for the moment, the liner silhouette of the immense Renzo floating on its stilts is almost final, the ultra-luxurious villas are barely visible since they will complete the project. “They will each have their own swimming pool and like all the accommodation in the program, they will be through with sea and mountain views from the ground floor, explains Denis Valode. What makes this program different is the care taken in every detail, the quality of the materials and green spaces as well as the work done on sun protection.”