Inspired by ancient amphitheatres and nestled within the greenery of the historic Queen Victoria Gardens, the newest iteration of the MPavilion landed in Melbourne earlier this month. Promising to make a fitting home for a rich, 4-month long program of events, this structure is also the latest, albeit one of the smallest, finely tuned performance spaces by OMA.
The international architecture firm is no stranger to building for leisure, culture and entertainment – the Taipei Performing Arts Center and Porto’s Casa da Musica are just two of their many notable contributions to the genre. In comparison, this temporary summer pavilion seems positively petite, yet no less thought has gone into its design, than in that of its larger counterparts.
Exterior view of the MPavilion 2017. Photography: John Gollings
Conceived as an open air platform to house events of all shapes and sizes, the structure appears deceptively simple; two grandstands, one fixed and one moveable, are arranged under a floating roof, fixed on a hilly landscape of native plants. The canopy is clad in aluminium; within it is embedded all the necessary equipment to support different types of activities.
Rem Koolhaas, together with the firm’s managing partner David Gianotten, headed the design team. The pair shares its insights and vision for the structure’s use in a newly released short film, revealing how this project was designed not only as a modern event space, but also a hub for debate about architecture and Melbourne’s urban needs.
'The amphitheatre is a place for debate, and that’s very often not public,' says Gianotten. 'And there is debate about the city needed, especially because everybody praises Melbourne as the most liveable city in the world, but that doesn’t mean there are no issues.'
Design model of the Pavilion 2017. Image courtesy OMA
In order to cover all bases, flexibility was key, so the architects’ clever technical planning, including the adaptable nature of the stage and seating, means that this small but perfectly formed structure can easily respond to unexpected needs and impromptu programming.
Being able to accommodate different scenarios may be a good way to measure the pavilion’s success, yet it is not the only one. 'For me the success will also be dependant on what people do inside the pavilion,' says Gianotten. 'It would be super exciting if we also get that feedback and to be inspired by that use.'
With the MPavilion's first month about to come to a close, and three more months' worth of activities planned ahead, there will no doubt be plenty of food for thought coming from this multi-tasking structure’s relatively short life.