Glenn Murcutt celebrates 50 years in practice with the 2019 MPavilion design

Melbourne's MPavilion 2019 reflects internationally influential architect’s environmentally responsible designs with a distinctive Australian character

Photography by: John Gollings

MPavilion 2019 relays Murcutt’s longstanding interest in linear buildings that make efficient use of researched site and climatic conditions.

Prioritising a view of the Yarra River and city skyline with weather-effective design elements, the MPavilion consists of a rectangular plan and round steel columns supporting wing-like trusses wrapped in translucent tensile membrane, shaping a buoyant white roof that will be lit from within at night.

The result is a sleek and adaptable MPavilion resting on the landscape.


Architect’s statement

The MPavilion 2019 is firstly a real pavilion: historically, a pavilion is a tent, a light and temporary building. I felt a crisp white building that at night could be lit from within its roof—like a lantern in the Queen Victoria Gardens, giving the pavilion a feeling of lightness—would sit comfortably in the location.

MPavilion 2019 is designed so that it can also be very easily dismantled and relocated.

I thought that the pavilion needed to address the city, so that from within the building you could view the gardens, and beyond to the river, and the city: a foreground, a middle ground and the distant ground. Having the pavilion face north, open towards the river, I could work with good climatic conditions. With the sun at 76 degrees thereabouts at noon at summertime it achieves shade, and combined with the northern aspect, it was logical to extend the building beyond the existing square grid foundation.

When I was designing the pavilion, during the very early period, I recalled a trip I made in Mexico about thirty years ago, to the Yaxchilán ruins, which were being restored at the time. I had been invited to see the ruins with a small group and we travelled by light aircraft to an airfield slotted amongst the tropical jungle.

For lunch, we had a picnic in the shade provided by the wing of the aircraft. In the high humidity of the tropical climate we laid out a tablecloth on the ground, establishing ‘place’.

After lunch, I put my rucksack against the aircraft’s under carriage and laid down, and there above me was the beautiful wing, lined with aircraft fabric—which led me to the MPavilion’s roof—with the tablecloth as my place, together with my view the Yaxchilán, and the surrounding forest. It was a wonderful moment. There was my beginning of the pavilion.

The MPavilion has a flap along the edge of the roof, like the aileron on an aircraft wing, which allows the fabric membrane to stretch over it and shed water.

To me it was amazing that this single-engine, small aircraft made of wood and aircraft fabric had not only taken me all that way but had also created, from these light materials, a temporary place for me to sit with in the shade and towards the view of the stone ruin, much like the MPavilion does.

I felt a crisp white building that at night could be lit from within its roof—like a lantern in the Queen Victoria Gardens, giving the pavilion a feeling of lightness—would sit comfortably in the location. Having the pavilion face north, open towards the river, I could work with good climatic conditions. This also means that from within the MPavilion one can view the gardens to the river and the city.

Glenn Murcutt AO

Glenn Murcutt is internationally acclaimed and he is highly regarded as a teacher, critic, and lecturer around the world. He has been a visiting professor at Yale and Washington universities in the United States. 

Murcutt currently teaches architectural studies as a professor at the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment. 

Prestigious awards include: American Institute of Architects Gold Medal 2009; Kenneth F. Brown Asia Pacific Culture and Architecture Award 2003; Pritzker Architecture Prize 2002; Thomas Jefferson Medal for Architecture 2001; ‘Green Pin’ Award from the Royal Danish Academy of Architects 1999; Richard Neutra Award for Teaching 1998; Officer of the Order of Australia 1996; Alvar Aalto Medal and RAIA Gold Medal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects 1992.

MPavilion

MPavilion 2019 is the sixth in an ongoing series of annual architect-designed summer pavilions for Melbourne.

Inspired by Murcutt’s career, MPavilion this year celebrates Australian design and identity with a free four-month season of events from 14 November 2019 to 22 March 2020.

Nov 17, 2019
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