Purple portrait by Olivier Zahm — Ora-ïto & MAMO in Marseille

Presse, Mars 2013
Photos © Olivier Zahm

French de­sign­er Ito Mora­bi­to, who works un­der the brand name Ora-ïto, is known for his grace­ful, el­e­gant, and er­go­nom­ic ob­jects — sil­ver­ware, beer bot­tles (for Heineken), kitchen­ware, time­pie­ces (Swatch), letter opener, bags (Louis Vuit­ton), and fur­ni­ture.

His many award-win­n­ing de­signs are won­der­ful to hold and skin-like to sit in, ex­hibit­ing his na­t­u­ral way with ma­te­rials and forms. A move to ar­chi­tec­ture was a na­t­u­ral evo­lu­tion for him.

In 2010, Ora-ïto found out that the gym and so­lar­i­um on the roof­top ter­race of Le Cor­busi­er’s “Ra­diant Ci­ty” in Mar­seille was for sale, and bought them straight away. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, an ad­di­tio­n­al struc­ture had been add­ed to the gym, block­ing the 360-de­gree views of the ci­ty. With the sup­port of the Fon­da­tion Le Cor­busi­er, Ora-ïto start­ed a cam­paign to bring the struc­ture back to its orig­i­nal form and trans­form it in­to a con­tem­po­rary art cen­ter, called the MA­MO for “Mar­seille Mo­d­u­lor” — as a nod to New York’s MO­MA. The ad­di­tio­n­al struc­ture was there­fore torn down and he ren­o­vat­ed the space, em­ploy­ing on­ly the ma­te­rials used to con­struct the orig­i­nal struc­ture and re­spect­ing the orig­i­nal blueprint. In the mean­time, the co-op of “The Ra­diant Ci­ty” de­cid­ed to ren­o­vate the en­tire ter­race, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of a paint­ing ate­li­er for chil­dren, a play­ground, and a public pro­m­e­nade with views on the sea and the ci­ty.

In cre­at­ing the MA­MO on Le Cor­busi­er’s ter­race, Ora-ïto want­ed to ex­tend Le Cor­busi­er’s avant-garde vi­sion of ar­chi­tec­ture. His idea is to in­vite a dif­fer­ent artist there each sum­mer to do a main ex­hi­bi­tion which will dia­logue with this ar­chi­tec­ture, cele­brat­ing its par­tic­u­lar beau­ty and utopian am­bi­tion. The space will be inau­gu­rat­ed and open to the public in 2013 with the French artist Xavi­er Veil­han.

Among the mul­ti­ple pro­jects the pro­lif­ic de­sign­er is de­vel­op­ing, the MA­MO is cer­tain­ly the most am­bi­tious, done in an ex­treme­ly gener­ous and open-mind­ed man­n­er, com­bin­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, de­sign, and art in a sym­bolic and his­tor­i­cal place. He used the draw­ing of an open hand that Le Cor­busi­er orig­i­nal­ly de­signed as a sculp­ture for Chandi­garh built on­ly af­ter his death — which he makes the sign of here — as the lo­go for the space.