Netherlands-based architects Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten (OMA) have designed the 2017 MPavilion to reference an ancient amphitheatre – but the resulting structure looks anything but ancient.

The first thing one will see when approaching the amphitheatre is a metallic silver roof, hovering over a raised bed of Indigenous plant life. The floating roof design is sharp in both the literal and figurative senses of the word; its colour and its corners both contribute to the onlookers’ sense of approaching a knife suspended over a pile of greenery.


Underneath this metallic square ceiling, things get a lot softer. MPavilion’s interior comprises a circular amphitheatre with two grands: one moveable, one not. From 3 October 2017 to 4 February 2018, MPavilion will provide a space in the centre of Melbourne for public debate, design workshops, music performances and art events. With such a broad function, it was important to Koolhaas and Gianotten that the structure itself was able to perform.

The mixture of static and dynamic elements within the 2017 MPavilion means it can be configured and re-configured to accommodate whatever type of performance is demanded from it on any given day. The rotating grandstand in particular enables visitors to interact with the pavilion from all angles. It also allows programmers to open up different views from within the space, whether to the specific context within the Queen Victoria Gardens or to the broader cityscape. Koolhaas and Gianotten’s interpretation of the MPavilion is not only an amphitheatre; it is a flexible space that can function as a theatre, a stage, an auditorium, or even a playground.



“OMA’s exciting design engenders a theatre for ideas with Melbourne as its backdrop. MPavilion 2017 will be extremely different to previous years, with a designated yet flexible stage enabling all kinds of cross-pollinated activity,” says MPavilion’s founder, Naomi Milgrom AO.

Socialising within the space will take place both day and night. To facilitate after-dark activities, Koolhaas and Gianotten have iced the pavilion with a two-metre-deep, gridded, “machine-like” canopy. While providing protection and lighting, this canopy is also translucent, in keeping with the broader 2017 MPavilion theme of a blurred indoor/outdoor space.


“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 Gianotten.

“MPavilion is a project that hopes to provoke discussion around what architecture can do both globally and in an Australian context,” say Koolhaas and Gianotten in a joint statement. “We’re interested in treating this pavilion not just as an architectural object, but as something that injects intensity into a city and contributes to an ever-evolving future.”

Construction on OMA’s MPavilion 2017 design is set to commence in August. MPavilion 2017 will be open for a variety of events from 3 October 2017 to 4 February 2018.