In Arts + Entertainment

MPavilion 2017 Is Reinventing The Ancient Amphitheatre

This year, Dutch architecture firm OMA will present its first-ever completed Australian commission for Melbourne’s MPavilion.

This year, architects David Gianotten and Rem Koolhaas will deliver OMA’s first-ever completed Australian commission for Melbourne’s MPavilion 2017 program. The fourth MPavilion will run from October 3 through February 4 with the primary focus of exploring the concept of the ancient amphitheatre.

Gianotten has some serious runs on the board. He is managing partner-architect at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) alongside architecture great Koolhaas and a Professor in Architecture and Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology.

“The MPavilion design is a device for debate about the city,” says Gianotten. “It consists of two tribunes of which one can move to create different typologies of debate and performance spaces.”


Render of MPavilion 2017. Photo: supplied

Gianotten wears many hats at OMA. He is responsible for the management, business strategy and growth of the company worldwide, but it’s the design process that he has always found interesting. His earliest design experience was as a child when his parents decided to enlarge the family home.

“The process involved was fascinating to me and showed me the possibility of combining an artistic mindset and technical challenges,” he says. “My designs are always informed by the local context, not only physically, but also the social, cultural and economic context the project is realised in. Design is a process of understanding this context and answering within.”


Render of MPavilion 2017. Photo: supplied

For MPavilion 2017, Gianotten’s design recalls this bridging of art, technology and the environment. Described as “a skilful yet empathetic manipulation of the surrounding landscape” the space will function as both stage and playground.

“We didn’t want to create an artefact, but a device for debate,” says Gianotten. “With the backdrop of the city the open structure provides a platform that discusses the future of the city and the role of nature within and around it.”

Program highlights

A four-month long program of talks, music and special events will mimic OMA’s multi-disciplinary ethos. MPavilion’s 2017 line-up hosts a slew of international names including OMA’s very own Rem Koolhaas, London-based architect Jack Self, South African artist Candice Breitz and UK’s Soft Baroque, New York-based architect Elizabeth Diller, Albanian contemporary artist Anri Sala and Singaporean artist Sam Lo.

Rem Koolhaas


The ‘godfather’ of modern architecture, Rem Koolhaas, will take the stage at this year’s MPavilion

Often referred to as the ‘godfather of contemporary architecture’, Rem Koolhaas will be taking the stage at this year’s MPavilion. A man of rare distinction, Koolhaas graduated from the Architecture Association School in London in 1972 and it wasn’t until three years later did he found the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) alongside architects Elia Zenghelis, Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp.

Koolhaas’ work is at once recognisable. His gravity-defying structures have polarised audiences and critics who often misunderstand his central architectural mission: to create spaces open to every kind of human experience. It is this search for new forms of meaning in urban environments that makes Koolhaas one of the most influential architects of his generation.

Interestingly, Koolhaas became known for his writings before he began to design and build. In his canonical text, Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto For Manhattan, he writes about the invention and testing of a revolutionary lifestyle: the Culture of Congestion. The idea that metropolitan culture and the architecture it gives rise to is inextricably linked is a theme that Koolhaas continues to explore today.

Koolhaas’ preoccupation with creating and embracing environments open to every kind of human experience is something that he will address in his lecture on the countryside as part of this year’s MTalks program. “Our cities are only a small part of the territory Earth. In fact it’s only two per cent and I have a feeling that the other 98 per cent have been neglected,” says Koolhaas.

“More and more our knowledge of the city has increased, but our knowledge about the countryside has decreased,” he says. “Australia is a perfect environment where you might begin to discuss that in order to continue to inhabit the Earth and pay more attention to what’s happening in the countryside and we also need to care more about what’s happening in the countryside.”



From left to right: Rem Koolhaas, Virginia Trioli, David Gianotten. Photo: Fred Ernst

Gianotten and Koolhaas will officially launch MPavilion’s 2017 program with a panel discussion on October 3. Founder and patron of MPavilion, Naomi Milgrom, will also take the stage alongside Gianotten and Koolhaas in conversation with the ABC’s Virginia Trioli the following day to unpack their hopes and dreams for this year’s program.

Other MTalks highlights include keynotes from a number of international architects, most notably Jack Self who will focus on promoting alternative models of home ownership and sustainable forms of labour in a quest to examine what it means to live today.


Architect Jack Self will explore themes of freelance employment, the housing crisis and personal brand to understand what it means to live today

Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro is known for her unique integrations of architecture and the visual and performing arts. She will be in conversation with design correspondent Andrew MacKenzie to discuss her firm’s work and how working with non-conventional materials can bring architecture to life in new and interesting ways.


MPavilion’s installation series, MProjects, will present ‘spatial interventions’ by Singaporean artist Sam Lo in partnership with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Melbourne Festival. Lo’s Progress: The Game Of Leaders is like a giant game of Jenga that invites the audience to build a country. An allegory that explores the economic structures of the first world, Lo’s work sets the tone for MProjects’s focus on thought provoking programming.


Together, Nicholas Gardner and Saša Štucin form Soft Baroque. Photo: Kat Green

The series will also present work by experimental architect Matthew Bird (of Studiobird fame) who’s set to team up with BalletLab artistic director Phillip Adams to deliver an immersive performance inviting us to interact with the afterlife, and Soft Baroque design duo Sasa Stucin and Nicholas Gardner.


This year’s MMusic line-up caters to all tastes. Bakehouse Studios has partnered with MPavilion to present a number of emerging and established artists; the idea is to give audiences an inside look at the inner workings of the iconic studio through a number of public rehearsals and secret shows.

Other acts on the bill include the Australian String Quartet, Philip Brophy, Sovereign Trax, Victorian Guitar Orchestra and Melbourne Guitar Quartet and the Australian Youth Orchestra among others.

MPavilion 2017/18 runs from October 3 through February 4. Learn more and view the full program here.

(Lead image: MPavilion render)

Published 14 September, 2017