MPavilion 2019 opens in Melbourne, marks 50 years of Glenn Murcutt’s practice

Designed by Australian Pritzker laureate Glenn Murcutt, the MPavilion 2019 is an all-white structure with fabric roof, and celebrates climate and environmentally-responsible design.

by Meghna Mehta Nov 16, 2019

MPavilion 2019, designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize recipient Glenn Murcutt AO, was recently opened to the public in the Queen Victoria Gardens in Melbourne, Australia. This structure is the first civic city design by the Australian architect who is renowned internationally for his environmentally responsible designs over a career spanning 50 years. MPavilion also conveys Murcutt’s long-term interest in buildings that respond efficiently to the existing site and climatic conditions.

The MPavilion 2019 by Glenn Murcutt sits prudently in the urban fabric of the city of Melbourne | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
The MPavilion 2019 by Glenn Murcutt sits carefully in the urban fabric of the city of Melbourne Image Credit: Courtesy of John Gollings

Murcutt explains the design of the pavilion saying, “I think 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 at noon in summertime, it achieves shade, and combined with the northern aspect, it was logical to extend the building beyond the existing square grid foundation.”

The steel columns support wing-like trusses that are wrapped in translucent tensile membrane, shaping a buoyant white roof | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
The steel columns support wing-like trusses that are wrapped in translucent tensile membrane, shaping a buoyant white roof Image Credit: Courtesy of John Gollings

Influenced by a memory of using the shade provided by a light aircraft’s wing as a temporary shelter from the heat of the tropics, Murcutt recollects what brought about the overall form, “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.”

Glenn Murcutt at MPavilion 2019 on the opening day | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
Glenn Murcutt at MPavilion 2019 on the opening day Image Credit: Courtesy of Timothy Burgess

The sleek MPavilion consists of a rectangular plan, steel framed structure with wing-like curved trusses supported on columns to form the 3.9-metre-high roof. The roof trusses are lined with translucent tensile membrane fabric with internal ceiling panels made from luminous Ceconite aircraft fabric, shaping a buoyant white roof. “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, adds Murcutt.

The pavilion has a flap along the edge of the roof, like the aileron on an aircraft wing | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
The pavilion has a flap along the edge of the roof, like the aileron on an aircraft wing Image Credit: Courtesy of John Gollings

Concealed LED lighting within the MPavilion’s roof emits a night-time glow. Likened to Murcutt’s ethos often referred to as ‘touching the earth lightly’, the fabric roof and lantern-style lighting add ephemerality to the MPavilion, gesturing to the transient interactions within a pavilion.

The roof provides shade in summer, while providing a view of the gardens to the river and the city | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
The roof provides shade in summer, while providing a view of the gardens to the river and the city Image Credit: Courtesy of John Gollings

The 2019 Pavilion was initiated and commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation with support from the City of Melbourne, Victorian State Government through Creative Victoria and Development Victoria, ANZ and RACV.

The pavilion was officially opened by MPavilion founder Naomi Milgrom AO, architect Glenn Murcutt AO and the City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp. The opening event was commemorated with a specially commissioned Welcome to Country song by Yorta Yorta soprano Deborah Cheetham AO, followed by the RMIT Master of Fashion (Design) Graduate Showcase, beginning an Opening Weekend of celebrations.

The fabric roof and lantern-style lighting add ephemerality to the MPavilion | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
The fabric roof and lantern-style lighting add ephemerality to the MPavilion Image Credit: Courtesy of John Gollings

Milgrom, at the opening ceremony, said, “Glenn’s fifty-year practice has inspired a new movement in thinking about climate responsive design. His MPavilion refines the Australian characteristics we’ve all come to love about his buildings, and provokes a conversation about how Australian design can lead a growing international conversation about the future of cities.”

  • The opening event commemorated by RMIT Master of Fashion (Design) Graduate Showcase | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
    The opening event commemorated by RMIT Master of Fashion (Design) Graduate Showcase Image Credit: Courtesy of Timothy Burgess
  • The opening event | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
    The opening event Image Credit: Courtesy of Timothy Burgess
  • The opening event | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
    The opening event Image Credit: Courtesy of Timothy Burgess

MPavilion for this year is the sixth in an ongoing series of annual architect-designed summer pavilions for Melbourne. MPavilion 2019 celebrates Australian design and identity with a free four-month events season, from November 14, 2019 to March 22, 2020. 

The MPavilion 2019 season of events includes hundreds of international and local collaborators, covering talks, workshops, performances, kid-friendly experiences and community projects. Renowned Melbourne designer Chris Connell has designed the ‘MP Stool’ in collaboration with Grazia & Co. for use at MPavilion during the season.

The ‘MP Stool’ designed by Chris Connell in collaboration with Grazia & Co. | MPavilion 2019| Australia | Glenn Murcutt| STIRworld
The ‘MP Stool’ designed by Chris Connell in collaboration with Grazia & Co. Image Credit: Courtesy of John Gollings

The temporary structure is designed as both a summer pavilion and an enduring architectural creation. At the end of each season, MPavilion is gifted to the people of Victoria and moved to a permanent new home to be engaged by the community in perpetuity, creating an ongoing legacy in Melbourne’s increasingly sophisticated architectural landscape.

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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