Melbourne's MPavilion 2017

This summer's architectural experiment in Melbourne interprets the ancient amphitheater in modern materials and design.
5 July, 2017
In the heart of the Australian city of Melbourne, the temporary pavilion in Queen Victoria Gardens serves the purpose it does in many international cities, connecting with leading architects to deliver a special vision for the community.
Melbourne's MPavilion, though, stands out from the crowd with its elegant simplicity, its adaptive configuration, and its integration into the park landscape and setting. From a distance, the MPavilion appears to float above the park. The effect is achieved using a two-meter-deep grid clad in aluminium to create a square above the site. It supports a translucent roof that both welcomes the sun and sky while protecting from the natural elements, and is itself a magnetic mix of surprise and delight that pulls passers-by toward it, while at the same time seeming understated.
"The simple materiality of the pavilion is related to its direct surroundings, positioning the Queen Victoria Gardens itself – and the city of Melbourne – as a basis for activity and debate within the pavilion," says David Gianotten, who with Rem Koolhaas led the OMA team that designed it. The roof grid also serves to support lighting, sound equipment and other mechanicals needed at the pavilion.

Beneath the roof, the pavilion interior is home to an amphitheater built in two segments. The wider and larger band of stage seating is built in a permanent arc facing the stage. But the stage itself is mobile, and the rotating grandstand can be turned to face outward. The smart design makes it possible to expand seating within the sheltered space, with views open to lawn performances and the city beyond.
Image: Detail
For Melbourne, the architects emphasized civic space as a place of discourse that connects across centuries to the oratory and debates of the ancient world. "It's the right place to address many different issues and to ask many different questions," explains Koolhaas. "That's one thing I really like about doing pavilions. You don't quite know what will happen in them."

As the city plans the use of MPavilion, those community conversations serve as its core. As with most summer pavilions, though, the space will still be home to theater, music, art and design events. The architectural flexibility anticipates the possibility of everything from panel discussions to playgrounds; the difference is what MPavilion founder Naomi Milgrom refers to as its capacity for cross-pollination.
Image: Detail
It's a "theater of ideas," the designers say, and therefore less an architectural object than a living element of Melbourne's culture. Because that's the mission, OMA designed the pavilion itself to be alive. The circle-in-a-square keeps the experience in creative tension, and it's fully wrapped on two sides – and more than half the circumference – by earth. Mounds of land, built as a berm that reaches the roof, serve almost as walls of the pavilion as it appears to emerge from the green of Victoria Gardens.

The effect is completed with at least 12 species of native plantings to celebrate the Australian ecosystem. The mounds and landscaping plants swell almost wave-like toward the rotating stage and communicate that what happens there is organic too. From the exterior, they connect the pavilion seamlessly with the Edwardian gardens, its statuary, and the public art and pathways.

The MPavilion 2017 will open in October and remain on site until February 2018.
Banner image: Detail