MPavilion 2019: an inspired architectural project grows wings


“Given our interest in sustainable cities, it fits in beautifully with our aspirations for Melbourne in particular, but also for the country.” – Shayne Elliott



Opening day of MPavilion 2019

Glenn Murcutt’s architectural philosophy is to “touch the earth lightly”. Derived from his years of education in Indigenous practices and cultures, such a philosophy is unmistakably present in his design of the 2019 MPavilion.


“I didn’t want to produce an object in the park. I wanted something that belonged to the park,” says Glenn, Australia’s only Pritzker Prize winner, the most coveted award in global architecture.


Each year since 2014, an outstanding architect is commissioned to design a pavilion for the Queen Victoria Gardens in the heart of Melbourne’s Southbank Art Precinct for the community to engage and share. This year, after years of trying, it is Glenn.


MPavilion is an ongoing initiative of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, one proudly supported by ANZ.


 “Given our interest in sustainable cities, it fits in beautifully with our aspirations for Melbourne in particular, but also for the country,” says ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott.


Every design idea needs to draw its inspiration from somewhere. For Glenn, that inspiration came in the form of a distant memory from a trip 30 years ago to jungle-shrouded, south Mexico and the historical site of Yaxchilán.


“I have a friend who’s a pilot and flies in there,” Glenn says. “We visited this ancient building which was fantastic. It was as if an octopus was growing over it. All these big ficus roots were all over it -consuming it,” he remembers.


“And then came lunchtime. To sit in the sun was terrible,” he says. Glenn suggested to the pilot and his fellow travellers that they have lunch in the shade of the wing of their aircraft in order to get some relief from the unbearable heat of the jungle.


After lunch, Glenn stayed back while the rest of the group continued on to have another look at the building.


“I got my rucksack and put it up against the wheel of the aircraft. I lay down and there was the wing of the aircraft – out towards Yaxchilán. What a beautiful level of shade provided by such a lightweight element, the wing of an aircraft,” he recalls thinking at the time.


During the initial design phase of the pavilion, Glenn had the sudden realisation he was designing the place he had experienced all those years ago.


Naomi Milgrom, whose Naomi Milgrom Foundation is behind the MPavilion, says her vision from the very beginning was to select architects who would bring something unique to Melbourne.


“[We wanted] to look at architects who had contributed to architecture in a different language. A unique language which made each one very particular in terms of its context and content,” she says.


Glenn Murcutt’s and this year’s MPavilion have certainly achieved this.


MPavilion is Australia’s leading architecture commission, and a cultural laboratory for the community to engage and share.


MPavilion is an ongoing initiative of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation and is supported by City of Melbourne, State Government of Victoria through Creative Victoria and Development Victoria, and ANZ.


Admission is free.


The pavilion opened to the public on 14 November 2019 and will remain open until 22 March 2020.


At the MPavilion on Saturday 30 November, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott joined Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand and Archibald Prize 2016 winner Louise Hearman for a panel discussion: The Archibald Prize on the International Stage. Click the link to listen.


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