by Meghna MehtaNov 16, 2019
A work more than two years in the making, MPavilion 2021 returns to the Queen Victoria Gardens with The Light Catcher by MAP studio. The Venice-based practice was originally meant to realise their project in 2020. However, work was postponed due to the global response to the COVID-19 crisis. Led by architects Francesco Magnani and Traudy Pelzel, from whose surname the name MAP is derived, the pavilion opened towards the end of 2021. MAP studio is an architecture, urbanism, and design practice based in Italy, and is renowned for responding to existing sites in a way that is both sensitive and celebratory. The Italian design studio also indicated a reignition of global partnership of the MPavilion.
The annual cycle of pavilion commissions implies its temporary nature. From the Serpentine Pavilion to the Venice Biennale, the cyclical nature of these temporary structures allows for studios and practices to implement experimental ideas. The project for the temporary MPavilion, commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, explores the potential of this particular archetype. The condition of the temporary architectural structure has the potential to be a focal point and location to congregate at, based simply on its transitory nature. In the case of the MPavilion it is also meant to act as an indicator of the creative and dynamic quality of the city of Melbourne, Australia.
Like previous iterations of the MPavilion, The Light Catcher is stipulated to have a life cycle of 20 years and will find a second home after its run at the Queen Victoria Gardens is completed. This is true of all previous versions as well, Glen Murcutt’s 2019 proposal is now housed at University Square, University of Melbourne. This creates an interesting urban understanding of these temporary structures. While functioning as part of the MPavilion these structures have a defined purpose. However, when they find their permanent home within the city of Melbourne, they adapt to their new location, functioning as bandstands or gazebos or simply covered shelters.
MAP's proposal is conceptualised as a lantern that functions as an urban lighthouse that illuminates and hosts the community cultural activities planned for the 2021 summer season in Melbourne. The inspiration might not be immediately visible as the final design is a geometric abstraction of the initial object.
The pavilion is a reticular steel structure, made up of galvanised and painted tubular profiles that support a set of panels in aluminium mirror finishing that reflect light. These reflective panels will also reflect the activities and people who will use this space. All these surfaces will function partially as shading elements. Composed of a three-dimensional mesh, based on 2x2x2 square modules that configure a base of 12 metres wide, with six modules and a volume of six-metres high, with three modules, overall covers an area of 144 sqm. The structure defines a hollow space of 64 sqm that is 6.4 metres high. The ground level is redefined as a coloured, organic, rubber surface.
Held up by a set of four prefabricated reinforced concrete supports, it also functions as a seating element. With a U-shaped form and smooth edges, the supports serve a dual purpose. A small circular kiosk houses a utility space, where kiosk carts or mobile seats can be stored. Keeping in mind that this particular pavilion has been produced during the pandemic, the pavilion is thought of as a stage around which people gather to attend events and shows, and not the complete centre of activity.
The Light Catcher positions itself as an urban sign of the consolidated role of civic gathering, community centre and the importance of creating a place of public meeting through a system of permeable ground supports, that qualifies itself as a habitable device in different ways that the intense program and the different types of events will require.
MPavilion 2021 is open to the public from November 2021 until March 2022. It is an ongoing initiative of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation and is supported by the City of Melbourne, State Government of Victoria through Creative Victoria and Development Victoria, and RACV.