MPavilion is returning to Melbourne and it feels very special this year. The flagship initiative, set up by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, is celebrating its tenth anniversary with the opening of MPavilion 10 in Queen Victoria Gardens on 16 November.
Pritzker Prize-winner Tadao Ando’s design for MPavilion 10 is in fact his first ever project in Australia. Afficionados will pick up on his distinctive style straight away – striking geometric forms set in nature, with a strong sense of precision and bold use of concrete. The pavilion is set within Melbourne’s cultural and botanic garden precinct, and invites visitors to reflect on harmony with nature. In signature Ando fashion, this harmony is bot attempted through any kind of biomimicry but rather through the heightened tension created when a logical, geometric design language finds dialogue with natural surroundings.
The opening itself marks the beginning of a five-month design festival featuring more than 150 public, free events. From its 2014 inauguration, MPavilion has grown to become one of Australia’s most visited festivals, attracting more than 350,000 people in 2022.
“I am honoured to have completed my first project in Australia, and to have created a piece of living architecture that will have such an important role in the cultural life of Melbourne this summer,” says Ando. “I hope that as people visit, they allow this space to enter their hearts, and allow their senses to tune into the light and breeze interacting with them and this space. I hope for them an experience of harmony with nature, with themselves and with others.”
The design for MPavilion 10 features a large canopy, a 14.4-metre aluminium-clad disc resting on a central concrete column. Two offset squares create two entrances that lead to the centre of the pavilion. As a series of interconnected spaces that seem at once harmonious and jarring, the pavilion captures one of the core concerns of Ando’s oeuvre, namely questions of what the essence of space is and what it can be or do. Previous MPavilion architect, Sean Godsell, acted as executive architect on the project.
Varied concrete walls partially enclose and create a tranquil space that is designed to evoke a traditional Japanese walled garden, only with a decidedly modern architectural language. A generous horizontal opening – almost 17 metres in length – frames views of Melbourne city and the parklands. The interior, meanwhile, brings another Ando favourite in the form of a pool of water.
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“There is a magic moment each season when an architectural vision becomes built reality, and when we welcome the public which gets to engage directly with the innovative space created by inspired architects,” says Naomi Milgrom AC, MPavilion commissioner. “Tadao Ando has designed a new, iconic destination in Melbourne, one that will serve as both a contemplative spot, a temporary refuge from the bustle of the city, and as a dynamic site for creative discovery and vigorous discussion.”
A public celebration marks the opening of MPavilion 10, with a joint Welcome to Country by Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Elder Uncle Dave Wandin and Boon Wurrung Elder N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM, and music from Yorta Yorta soprano Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO’s, the Dhungala Children’s Choir, and taiko ensemble Taikoz.
MPavilion 10 is free and open to the public in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens from 16th November 2023 to 28th March 2024. Three themes define the programme: in November and December, ‘Memories of Place’ and the links between water, gardens and changing landscapes; in January and February, ‘Craftsmanship’; and in March, ‘A Blank Canvas’ will celebrate of Ando’s design philosophy. The festival is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, the City of Melbourne, ANZ and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
This article is written by Indesign Digital Editor, Timothy Alouani-Roby.