A Forest in Downtown Melbourne

A Forest in Downtown Melbourne

From Melbourne, Australia, where it’s springtime right now, comes another wonderful composite pavilion. MPavilion 2015, in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Garden, is a temporary installation commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. This is the second year of this newly-minted tradition, and the design was won by British architect Amanda Levete. It opened to the public on Oct0ber 6 for a 4-month run.

MPavilion 2015 leverages a property of fiber reinforced polymer composite that has not been widely explored in the architectural world: its flexibility. Most architectural installations are designed to last, and the materials they are made of are subject to close scrutiny for their durability and longevity. Under most conditions, this translates into rigidity, in order to resist loads, to resist the elements and, frankly, to inspire confidence in the occupants.

A temporary pavilion, one that does not need to fully enclose the space it defines, has few of these concerns. Amanda Levete’s design takes advantage of this freedom by maximizing thinness. The modular design is comprised of translucent composite petals – 13 large and 30 small – supported on carbon fiber stems that the architect describes as “impossibly thin.” The petals are up to 5 meters wide, and only a few millimeters thick. They are intended to respond to the environment, fluttering and trembling in the breeze, causing the light and shadow beneath them to dance correspondingly. Levete describes it as being a sort of forest canopy in the heart of the city.

The petals, made by Mouldcam, are also fitted out with LEDs to keep up their lively display after dark. The tiny lights are programmed to respond to the soundscape that is played in the park during the evening.

There are a variety of events – over 200 of them – planned for the pavilion site during its 4-month installation.Mpavilion.org offers this description of the pavilion and its purpose:  “MPavilion is an event hub, a meeting place, a temporary landmark, a spontaneous detour, a starting point. From October 2015 to February 2016, we’re collaborating with thinkers, doers and makers to bring you a free four-month program of talks, workshops, performances and installations.”

Levete’s website conveys her excitement about using composite materials. “Composite technology has revolutionised engineering industries such as aerospace and has the potential to do the same for construction. The use of composites enables structures of unprecedented lightness combined with great strength and the potential applications in architecture are tantalisingly unexplored.”

Images © John Gollings, via ala.uk.com.