OMA Australia

Initiated by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, the MPavilion is a temporary pavilion structure commissioned to an architecture studio to encourage design debate and cultural exchange. From October 2017 to February 2018, MPavilion took up residence in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens as a design and cultural laboratory. The pavilion played host to a series of talks, workshops, performances and installations.

The brief aimed to create an architectural space and container of ideas incorporating the highest level of design thinking, innovation, experimentation and engagement for Melbourne. The interpretation outlined the importance of promoting architecture through developing a leading contemporary architectural event in Australia. MPavilion acted as a centerpiece for a free public program of cultural events and activities; it stimulated tourism and visitation to Melbourne; and it promoted Melbourne as a design capital through meaningful collaborations. After its initial season, the temporary pavilion was gifted to the people of Melbourne and relocated to a permanent site.

MPavilion 2017, designed by OMA Australia, was shaped by a two tiered grandstand – one fixed and the other moveable, and then covered by a floating roof structure. The rotating grandstand allowed for interaction from all angles, with the pavilion opening to the garden and broader cityscape. The larger static grandstand was excavated from the surrounding landscape and embedded in twelve different species of native plants, rooting the pavilion in its Australian setting. Overhead, a two-meter-deep machine-like gridded canopy with a protective translucent roof held advanced lighting technology to illuminate the series of free public events.

Inherent to OMA Australia’s concept, the pavilion reflected a sense of place and cultural connectedness, corresponding to the urban themes around ‘countryside and landscape’. While cities are the focus of much research and forecasting, they only occupy two per cent of the world’s surface. The expanse of countryside offers a vastly greater and more significant footprint that can impact our global future. OMA Australia’s aim was to show ‘the new character, new nature and the new urgency of the countryside.’

Beyond the design, the MPavilion commission is a thought-leadership initiative – a risk-taking, experimental, and innovation space showcasing different approaches to design and architecture. During its four-month season, MPavilion 2017 welcomed more than 117,000 visitors, 550 collaborators, and hosted 477 free events over 133 days.

Photography: Timothy Burgess, John Gollings