MPavilion 2015 by Amanda Levete of AL_A

MPavilion

British architect Amanda Levete, principal of London-based AL_A, designed the second MPavilion, open in Melbourne, Australia from 4 October 2014 to 7 February 2015.

About
Founded in 2014, MPavilion is a unique architecture commission and design event for Melbourne. Initiated by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation with support from City of Melbourne and the Victorian State Government, every year for four years an outstanding architect will be commissioned to design a temporary pavilion for the Queen Victoria Gardens, in the centre of Melbourne’s Southbank Arts Precinct. An event hub, a meeting place and an invitation to experiment, each MPavilion brings creative collaborators together to present a free, four-month program of talks, workshops, performances and installations from October to February over summer. In 2015, the second iteration of MPavilion, following Sean Godsell (2014), was designed by British architect Amanda Levete, principal of AL_A and formerly a partner at Future Systems.
The architect
Amanda Levete (1955 - )

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, a 1.5  million  sq  ft  luxury  shopping  mall  and  hotel  in  Bangkok  on  the  former  grounds  of  the  British  Embassy, a new centre for the cancer care charity Maggie’s, a 13­‐hectare media campus for Sky, and  a  cultural  centre  in  Lisbon  commissioned  by  Energias  De  Portugal  (EDP).

MPavilion 2015 speaking on the role of 'risk' within architecture. Video courtesy of the Australian Institute of Architects.

Pictured: Amanda Levete's Lord's Media Centre (1999), winner her the Stirling Prize (Britain's highest architectural accolade) while working as a partner for Future Systems.

Martin Roth, former director of London's Victoria and Albert Museum, speaks about Amanda Levete's practice in relation to the V&A and furthers his thoughts about her ideas for MPavilion 2015.

MPavilion patron, Naomi Milgrom explains the vision behind MPavilion as a whole and imparts her thoughts on MPavilion 2015.

The process

Design statement by 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 dematerialised structure that feels more akin to its natural surroundings than to a building, it gives shelter for a programme of events.

The canopy is made up by a number of seemingly fragile, translucent petals. The petals are supported by impossibly slender columns that gently sway in the breeze. Exploiting the temporary nature of the pavilion form, our 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.

Complexity increases through repetition, using two sizes of petals to create multiple configurations. At the centre, 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.

The slender carbon fibre 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 will have 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 treeline to the east. The slender columns are arranged on a 4m x 4m grid at the centre to afford a generous event space. 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.

Employing the aesthetic and technology of hi-tech nautical engineering, the 3m and 5m diameter petals, which are only 3mm thick, are formed of ultra-thin translucent composite and carbon fibre, developed with an Australian boat specialist. Each petal is formed by a carbon fibre 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.

MPavilion 2015's carbon fibre columns in focus.

MPavilion 2016 revealed

Amanda Levete, 2015 MPavilion architect:

It’s an honour to have been commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation to design the second edition of the MPavilion.

I’ve visited Australia three times in the past six years and without doubt Melbourne is my favourite city. I’ve always met a diverse and interesting group of friendly, welcoming people. It’s people that make a city creative – and that’s why I love Melbourne.

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.

We have a long history of working with boat builders and Australia has some of the finest. We’re working with a yacht fabricator to employ the boundary-pushing technology of composite materials to create the canopy, which is made up by a number of seemingly fragile, translucent petals supported by impossibly slender columns that gently sway in the breeze.

Pictured: MPavilion 2015's 43 'petals'—13 with five-metre spans and 30 with three-metre spans—supported by 95 slender columns looking toward the southern end of Melbourne's central business district.

For me what was to important was to root this structure in place. It wasn’t hard with the incredible lushness of the Queen Victoria Gardens and the significance of the site opposite the National Gallery of Victoria.

– AL_A's Amanda Levete describing her ethos behind the second MPavilion.

Illustrator extraordinaire Oslo Davis visited MPavilion to capture MPavilion on paper.

MPavilion 2015 at dusk.

The relocation
At the close of each season, each MPavilion gets re-gifted to the City of Melbourne from the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. AL_A's MPavilion now resides in Docklands Park, nestled just outside of Melbourne's Hoddle Grid. 
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