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MPavilion by Amanda Levete open

This year’s MPavilion in Melbourne is designed by Amanda Levete. The second pavilion imitates the forest with a swaying canopy.

The MPavilion 2015 by Amanda Levete imitates the forest with a swaying canopy. (Rendering: AL_A)




Today the MPavilion 2015 opens in Melbourne, Australia, during Melbourne Festival. This years design was created by Amanda Levete, architect at AL_A.

The Pavilion, rooted within the natural landscape of the Queen Victoria Gardens, has been designed to create the sensation of a forest canopy. A dematerialized structure that feels more akin to its natural surroundings than to a building, it gives shelter for a program of events.

Dissolving structure

The canopy is made up by a number of seemingly fragile, translucent petals. The petals are supported by slender columns that gently sway in the breeze. Exploiting the temporary nature of the pavilion form, the design subverts the norms of immovable and immutable buildings. It embraces and amplifies such distinctions, so that it speaks in response to the weather, and moves with the wind rather than trying to keep it at bay.

Employing the aesthetic and technology of high-tech nautical engineering, the three meter and five meter diameter petals are formed of ultra-thin translucent composite and carbon fiber, developed with an Australian boat specialist. Each petal is formed by a carbon fiber weave, interlacing structure and aesthetic together to form the pattern that falls as shadow on the floor. Reinforcement is embedded into the surface of the borderless petal, rather than as an encircling frame.

Complexity increases through repetition, using two sizes of petals to create multiple configurations. At the center, the petals tightly cluster and are layered to give a continuous shingled surface. As the Pavilion fades out into the parkland, the size and number of spaces increase until the trees themselves take over the Pavilion’s role and the structure dissolves.

Four meter grid

The slender carbon fiber columns conceal the wiring of lights and speakers. A halo-like effect is created by an LED strip forming the capital to the column, while pioneering technology turns the petals themselves into amplifiers. From surrounding high-rises, the Pavilion has a glowing aura and particular presence in the otherwise darkened garden at night.

Visitors approach from all directions, barely perceiving the distinction between tree canopy and Pavilion, aided by a smooth transition from grass to timber deck on the same level. Flowerbeds arrayed around the edge subtly define the entrances that visitors can filter in and out through.

Inside, the performance space is oriented to provide a backdrop of the jagged urban skyline to the north or the delicately layered tree line to the east. The slender columns are arranged on a four meter grid at the center to afford a generous event space.

AL_A design and architecture studio

The MPavilion is the product of an Anglo-Australian collaboration led by AL_A, working with Arup’s London and Melbourne offices, alongside MouldCam and Kane Construction.

Amanda Levete is a Stirling Prize winning architect and founder and principal of AL_A, an international award-winning design and architecture studio. Since its formation in 2009, AL_A has refined an intuitive and strategic approach to design that has radicalised clients and briefs, led to a diverse range of concepts for cultural, retail and commercial schemes around the world. Recent commissions include the highly anticipated expansion of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

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MPavilion 2015 prototype

Left: Rendering: AL_A; Right: Photo: Kane Jarrod

Forest canopy in the heart of the city

Levete trained at the Architectural Association and worked for Richard Rogers before joining Future Systems as a partner in 1989, where she realised ground-breaking buildings including the Media Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground and Selfridges department store in Birmingham.

The brief is a great opportunity to design a structure that responds to the climate and the landscape. I wanted to exploit the temporary nature of the pavilion form and produce a design that speaks in response to the weather. Rooting the pavilion in its parkland setting, I looked to create the sensation of a forest canopy in the heart of the city that gives shelter to a programme of events’, says Amanda Levete.

Pavilion as part of the cultural heritage of Melbourne

MPavilion is an architecture event commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation for Melbourne. A new temporary pavilion is designed each year by a leading international architect. Each structure takes shape in the historic Queen Victoria Gardens housing talks, workshops, performances and installations from October until February. The architect for each MPavilion is selected based on the strength of their international profile and ability to encourage design debate, and make a meaningful contribution to Australian creative industries. One of the unique features of the MPavilion project, is that it is gifted to the City of Melbourne creating a permanent legacy of architectural masterpieces; the pavilions become part of the cultural heritage and public amenity of Melbourne, attracting tourism, industry development and civic pride.

The pavilion will be open from 5 October 2015 to 7 February 2016. More information

See Naomi Milgrom discuss the pavilion:

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Photos: Kane Jarrod

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