Performance power: Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten discuss the 2017 MPavilion

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.

Gardens with trees & central building

Exterior view of the MPavilion 2017.

(Image credit: 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

Design model of the Pavilion 2017.

(Image credit: 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.

Wooden tiered seating structure

Interior of the MPavilion 2017.

(Image credit: John Gollings)

Exterior view of garden & grey building

Aerial view of the MPavilion 2017.

(Image credit: John Gollings)

Another view of exterior

Exterior view of the MPavilion 2017.

(Image credit: John Gollings)


For more information visit the MPavilion and OMA websites

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).