Friche la Belle de Mai

Full Member / France

La Friche, in its prototypal form, arose in 1992 out of the new models for urban cultural interaction in the public interest, now known as “third places.” This unique, reinvented space brings together artistic activity, modes of urban transformation, real connections to the region, and dynamic cooperation.

What makes the organisation unique?

La Friche serves as both a workspace for 70 resident organizations, where 400 artists, producers, and employees work daily, and as a cross-disciplinary venue offering over 600 artistic events to the public annually. With a sprawling 100,000 square meters across several floors, this public space accommodates 450,000 visitors each year. It houses five performance venues, a community garden, a playground, an athletic space, a restaurant, a bookstore, a daycare, approximately 2,400 square meters of exhibition space, an 8,000 square-meter rooftop, and a training center.

The diversity of practices and represented communities

Thanks to its expansive size and diverse array of spaces, La Friche serves as a vital workspace for artists and fosters the development of numerous projects simultaneously. Sculptors, actors, painters, photographers, dancers, and producers find ample time and space for their creative endeavors, enabling them to write and craft their art. These residents, affectionately referred to as "frichistes," contribute to the vibrant artistic community that has been integral to La Friche since its inception.

The choice of the name "La Belle de Mai" for La Friche is not arbitrary; it reflects its integration with the larger neighborhood. The welcoming atmosphere extends to local youth, who have access to the spaces seven days a week, with even the youngest residents of Belle de Mai benefiting from a daycare facility. In 2014, La Friche opened the cinema Le Gyptis, which has since become a cornerstone of the neighborhood, fostering a sense of belonging for people from Belle de Mai and beyond within its many open spaces.

An exemplary governance

The Cooperative Society of Collective Interest de la Friche la Belle de Mai is the first of its kind in the cultural sector in 2011. It is constantly on the move. The co-writing of a Cooperative Orientation Scheme in 2021 by the project’s stakeholders drew the broad lines of renewed “Common Futures” addressing territorial anchoring and outreach, enhanced participation, cooperation, commitment to the transitions of our time, resource sharing, hospitality and welcoming diversity, and resilience of the economic model.

A local and international hub for professionals

La Friche have a permanent activity towards the professional world on fields of art and culture but also of social and solidarity entrepreneurship. Several operators located at la Friche develop incubators, support and training for young entrepreneurs and artists. La Friche also hosts a regional school of performing arts, a training and apprenticeship center for the technical show trades. Every day the Friche is a place for meetings and exchanges between professionals, around networks and the own ecosystems of the 70 resident operators of la Friche.

Research and experimentation

La Friche has never claimed to be a model, but has since its creation tried to experiment with the modes of organization and production, of governance, of relationship with the public in the perspective of sharing it with the community of cultural actors and public policies. La Friche is an original cultural and creative hub, in size, scope and organization. This lab and cooperative dynamics are the subject of many attentions, including researchers.

Research works relies on internal working groups and think-thank within cooperative society. Many topics are discussed in prospective way between the members (users, district’s inhabitants, policies maker) as youth and future, artistic production, social inclusion, economic development, democratic process, sustainable development, mobility, digital transition. We are currently working with several universities and are preparing a three-year residency for a doctoral researcher in social and urban development.

  • Work areas
  • MusicNotesSimple Music
  • Theatre / Performance
  • Dance
  • MaskHappy Visual Arts
  • Movie Film
  • Literature
  • Publishing

  • Activities
  • Exhibition and Programming
  • Education and Training

  • Former use of space
  • Factory Industrial Building

  • TEH Membership

European cooperation involvement

La Friche is involved and engage in numerous local, national and european projects for inventing and experimenting new ways of making sustainable cities based on cultural-led actions and citizen participation.

La Friche is currently partner of a H2020 project named T-Factor as an advanced case to understand what role requalified industrial spaces and transitional uses have played in the urban regeneration process in the Belle de Mai district and more widely in Marseille. This project made of 25 partners from research, companies, social workers, landscapes experts and urban regeneration practitioners’ communities are working together into a more inclusive and sustainable way of making cities.

La Friche is also Lead partner of Future DiverCities project (Europe Creative Large scale cooperation project). Future DiverCities seeks to re-imagine the regeneration of urban empty spaces through culture, from an ecological perspective. The project will develop cultural approaches to enhance and preserve the ecological value of unused empty spaces in 8 European cities. Until now, the path of cultural regeneration has often led to the creation of new built spaces, the development of certain infrastructures, the rehabilitation of industrial heritage and the creation of architectural landscapes. With major changes in the way we inhabit our cities, there is an urgent need to approach urban cultural regeneration in a

more ecological way, as the approach to city regeneration. The approach taken so far will not be sufficient to meet the major challenge of building environmentally resilient cities. There is a space and a demand to inject new project concepts and to learn from other experiences on how to better facilitate the exchange between culture, regeneration and ecology and this is what the 13 partners from 10 countries involved in the project intend to do.

It is involved in research project “T-Factor” as advance case study for meanwhile uses and spaces by transferring its experience to research and practicionners communities for pilot space development.

It has been partner of Erasmus + projects focused on cultural practice transformation for participatory actions and programming.