A More Egalitarian Dialogue of Design

An amphitheatre which rises out of the grass, and a rotatable grandstand, OMA’s MPavilion in Melbourne is a confidently civic space and designed to engage Melburnians from all walks of life.



BY Sandra Tan

14 September, 2017


Founded in 2014, MPavilion is an annual architecture and design event of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Supported by the City of Melbourne, State Government of Victoria, through Creative Victoria and ANZ in Australia, every year the foundation commissions an outstanding architect to design a temporary pavilion for the Queen Victoria Gardens, in the centre of Melbourne’s Southbank Arts Precinct. 

Each pavilion, dubbed the MPavilion, brings creative collaborators together to present a free, fourmonth-long program of talks, workshops, performances and installations, and more, from October to February. It aims to promote Melbourne as the design capital of Australia and a world renowned leader in liveability by fostering discussion and debate about the role design, architecture and culture in creating a city that is liveable, creative and equitable.

An amphitheatre which rises out of the grass, and a rotatable grandstand – the fourth MPavilion, created this year by international firm OMA, is a confidently civic space. An architectural spectacle designed specifically to engage Melburnians from all walks of life.

Fitting then that this year’s MPavilion program, put together by creative director Robert Buckingham, deputy creative director Jessie Frenchand producer Sara Savage, intentionally speaks to a broader, more diverse demographic than in previous years. The program will include events with topics ranging from as ‘Designing the Age-Friendly City’, which will include intergenerational workshops, to ‘ A Stage for New Parenthood’ that will see monthly baby-friendly modifications to the space during the event.

Another first for MPavilion in 2017 will be the program’s regional activation. “There will be a strong focus on the aboriginal communities in both locations,” says MPavilion’s Regional Project Manager, Sarah Lynn Rees. “And we will also be looking at immigrant communities and diversity which exists in regional centres.”

The program will also expand to the remote townships. This not only makes for a more egalitarian dialogue of design outside of the city, but also aligns with OMA’s current fascination for the countryside. On October 3, Melbourne School of Design will host Rem Koolhaas’ lecture on his vision of the countryside in a sold-out event (OMA fans can register on a waitlist for notification on when further tickets may become available).

The new pavilion’s role in supporting design discourse will come to the fore during a highly anticipated forum presented by Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten. The pair will discuss and examine public space with a panel of experts, while the structure itself, configurable in either grandstand or auditory mode, provides a moving stage used to moderate the conversation.

“The cultural exchange takes priority over the building as an object,” says Paul Jones, Director-Architect at OMA. “The collaborators were briefed of the possibilities of the space, and they’re really embracing the structure in different ways. So by building in that adaptability, we have been able to support a very diverse program.”

As Jessie French, deputy creative director of MPavilion explains: “We are trying to get across the idea that design is for everyone – to give people ways to understand how it relates to them, and what good architecture and design can do.”

MPavilion opens to the public from 3 October 2017 and runs until 4 February 2018.


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