MSA Stage 5 School of Architecture

Rory Thomas


Throughout my final year at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, as part of the Ethical City brief, I have examined more closely the ways in which a city forms its borders around its political history and present. My thesis project, The New Calanques, is a response to the formation of these boundaries, an attempt to create architecture that is a catalyst for change within the urban fabric.

Outside of university I founded the Umarell Collective alongside classmates Andrew Wilson and Katy Hope. As a group we create a publication, highlighting radical approaches to architecture across the world that are not present within popular outlets. We also run our own workshops, looking into special politics and creating an environment where architecture is more approachable.

The New Calanques
This Bothy Has Legs

The New Calanques

The New Calanques deals with spatial divide and inequity between the accessible waterfront of the north and south of Marseille. The aim is to reconnect the northern sectors of the city back to the waterfront whilst redeploying a modernised industry that exists alongside a publicly accessible programme.

The project stems from the history of the calanque national park that stretches from the southern edge of the city to cassis. A calanque is a geographical formation defined by its steep topography and unique coves. They were once the industrial centre of the region, producing harsh chemicals like tartaric acids and lead, however, industry moved from the area naturally over decades, allowing for its conversion into a national park, the ruins of the former industry still litter the landscape and are a reminder of the move from economy to ecology.

The south of the city’s edge now is predominantly beaches and marinas, in contrast as shown through this taxonomy of sections, the north of the city’s edge is defined by a monolithic concrete flat, hosting a majority of Marseille’s industry, and as a result is one of the least accessible and most surveyed areas of the city. The north edge of Marseille remains an industrial centre to the city, however, the section defined as a site for this project is seeing a withering of said industry, the main economic drivers being passenger related ship industries and the importing of wholesale goods. This industry occupies a juxtaposition within the city, in a physical capacity, it obstructs and landlocks the northern sectors, restricting the population’s access to what should be a common land and recourse. Conversely the industry of the port is also vital to the population, it is the lifeblood of the Marseille economy bringing in business, tourism and raw materials, amongst others. The failing industry of the northern port offers an opportunity to redeploy an updated industry alongside a programme of culture and public access allowing for equitable access to the water and linking the two juxtaposing ends of this relationship.

Site Plan

Site A // Plan

Site B // Plan

Site C // Plan

Axonometric 01

Axonometric 02

Axonometric 03

Pipes in Le Panier

View back towards the cathedral

Beach at the end of the boulevard



Electrolysis Hall

Site Axonometric

Storage Detail

1-500 Model

Umbilical Cord

This Bothy Has Legs

In summer of 2023 we ran a workshop as part of EASA Commons called This Bothy has Legs, we focused on the creation of a temporary and movable bothy. In a sense, the Bothy is a transient space in which people can move freely through, adding or subtracting as they desire, exchanging food, games and stories with one another. The workshop focused on collective action in the creation of space, looking at the culture of trespass that brought both the Right to Roam and Bothies into existence. The very forming of the Bothy we built necessitated communal action from all participants and the outcome was an ephemeral space in which the participants could exchange all that was previously mentioned with one another and any lucky rambler who may be roaming past, we even danced. The nature of the structure we created allowed us to reclaim space wherever we placed ourselves and create a temporary commons within the boundaries of the Bothy. At the end of the day, we would pack up and leave, no trace that we had ever occupied the space at all.