Each summer since 2000, London's Serpentine Gallery has commissioned world-leading architects to design a pavilion in Kensington Gardens. In the decade and a half since Zaha Hadid kicked off the concept, the Serpentine's temporary pavilion has become one of the world’s most popular summer art events, and a hotbed for architectural experimentation. This year, with the help of an Australian fashion giant, the concept has arrived in Melbourne.
Positioned opposite the Arts Centre in the oft-forgotten Queen Victoria Gardens, the MPavilion will be an annual commission by Naomi Milgrom’s philanthropic foundation, importing the pre-tested concept of the Serpentine pavilion. Naomi Milgrom AO, owner of the Sussan Group, has commissioned Sean Godsell Architects for MPavilion’s inaugural season. It has responded with a rectangular volume with a series of hinged doors. These openings, which feel like nothing more than a band of ornate suburban garage doors dancing, swivel to reveal the program within, making MPavilion one giant veranda, exposing participants to Melbourne’s moody weather. But that’s the point. Hail, wind or shine, its public exposure is what should give life to the project through its free, four-month events program – of performances, sleep-overs, exhibitions, workshops, wellness and even tea ceremonies – to transform the MPavilion from an architectural monument into a generous gift that explores what design can do for the city.
While just 12 x 12 metres, the MPavilion is an unashamedly ambitious project by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Several cultural, educational and government organisations have assisted the project, helping to explore the potential of design and creativity on our lives. As Naomi Milgrom says, “Design has the capacity to change the way we think, live and work.” This pavilion will test this theory in real-time. Architect Sean Godsell reiterates Milgrom’s point, promising a pavilion "accessible to all, [that] exposes the potential of architecture to the general public.” It is the reach of this pavilion beyond the design crowd to a wider public that will make this ambition more than an architectural folly when it opens this October.
While MPavilion will pop-up in fourteen weeks time, and then every Spring/Summer over the next four years, it will leave a legacy after it pops down. Each pavilion will be gifted to the City of Melbourne and be recast as a permanent member of Melbourne’s colourful architecture chorus.