MPavilion in Melbourne
Architect: Bijoy Jain / Studio Mumbai
Location: Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne VIC 3004 (AU)
The contrast between this urban backdrop and the simple, handmade structure of bamboo and wood that forms the current MPavilion could scarcely be greater. The latter, in what resembles a traditional Asian form of construction, is the third temporary pavilion to be erected in the Queen Victoria Gardens since 2014. The pavilion will stand in this historical park – situated to the south of the city’s business district – throughout the Australian summer, providing a cultural meeting point and location for various events.
In contrast to the Serpentine Pavilion in London, however, which also served as a model for the Australian concept, there is no museum backing behind the scheme in Melbourne. Instead, a private organization, the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, bears the bulk of the costs. Every year, the eponymous founder of this institution entrusts a different international architect with the design. In 2014, local icon Sean Godsell developed a filigree metal structure with changeable openings in the facade and roof, for which he was awarded the DETAIL Prize last November. In 2015, the British architect Amanda Levete created an ultralight object from carbon fibres and translucent plastics.
For 2016, Naomi Milgrom selected the Indian architect Bijoy Jain and his Studio Mumbai. Whereas his two predecessors opted for state-of-the-art technology and material development, Bijoy Jain’s scheme is characterized by the exclusive use of natural building materials. In addition, handmade forms of construction were a major feature of the design: for Jain, the building process stands on an equal footing with the end product.
Alongside the core team of architects, Studio Mumbai consists above all of craftsmen who are able to apply traditional Indian construction methods that have been handed down from one generation to another over the centuries. A further token of this return to tradition are the knotted ropes connecting the bamboo members, although these are additionally fixed with wooden pins, which resulted in a particularly elastic overall construction.
As is common in the Mumbai region, the pavilion is covered with prefabricated mats made of Karvy branches – mats that were also produced in that region. On the inside of the roof and scarcely visible externally is an additional translucent membrane that acts as protection against rain. Somewhat off-centre is an opening in the roof which, according to Bijoy Jain, is meant to link the internal space with the sky. Directly beneath this, a golden receptacle symbolizes the immense importance of water for the world.
With its simple, yet symbolic design, Studio Mumbai has managed to create a pavilion that is quite unspectacular at first sight, but that stands with self-assurance in the verdant surrounding landscape. In contrast to many comparable projects, it does not seek to be eye-catching at all costs. Only on closer examination does it reveal the subtlety of its concept. The present MPavilion, therefore, is a place of peace in an extremely lively metropolis – a city where upmarket architecture proves to be otherwise somewhat loud and seeks to attract attention to itself.