Summer beneath an orange cloud

10 January 2023

MPavilion, Australia’s leading architecture commission, returns with an eye-catching design.

Orange covering held up with white poles

Architect Rachaporn Choochuey's MPavilion design for summer 2022/23 is a glorious thing, a pillowy drift of sunset-coloured ceiling panels waffled to tremble in the most delicate breeze, slung low over slender steel legs.

It hovers opposite the National Gallery of Victoria, a cartoonish - and happily photogenic - backdrop for the people milling below it and picnicking all around.

It's quite something to behold but, Rachaporn explains in a lecture at the University of Melbourne, to be admired is not her MPavilion's raison d'être. "People won't remember the pavilion," she says cheerfully, "But they will remember what happened in that building."

She means its function will always trump its form. The pavilion is hosting a rich daily program of more than 250 free creative cultural activities, workshops, talks, performances and parties, scheduled to go ahead in all weather through summer and early autumn.

In fact Rachaporn's pavilion proved its credentials as a weatherproof shelter at its official opening by Naomi Milgrom AC, commissioning founder of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, on December 8. In drenching rain and freezing winds, Rachaporn's design stayed bone dry if not summery warm.

Rachaporn herself did not attend the opening, committed as she was to a lecture series at Yale University in the US. But she'll return, she says, midway through the pavilion's cultural programme, in late February.

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Rachaporn is founder of architectural firm all (zone), based in Bangkok. Her MPavilion echoes many international commissions for which all(zone) is renowned. It is sail-like and fluid, moves softly in the air, more complex than it appears, is scrupulously skewed to minimise material use and waste, and chimes with world realities such as climate change, refugee migration and economic disparity.

Rachaporn says this airy design, for example, with its transparent fishing-net roof and breeze-catching cabled textile ceiling (48 orange and magenta panels colour-matched to Thai monks' robes), is a response to the pandemic's claustrophobic restrictions. "We don't want to be in a room anymore; we want to go beyond the walls!"

"The pavilion should be a place to celebrate that outer life in public," Rachaporn says, "Like a big group of trees, a nice place to be (that's) soft and colourful and fun and friendly."

Rachaporn is the ninth world renowned architect commissioned by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation to design MPavilion, an ephemeral architectural installation built annually in the Queen Victoria Gardens opposite the National Gallery of Victoria. At the end of its tenure, each MPavilion is gifted to Victoria and erected in a new permanent location.

Other MPavilion architects, each wildly unique and some controversially so since philanthropist businesswoman Naomi Milgrom established the programme in 2014, have included Sean Godsell, Amanda Levete, Bijoy Jain, Rem KoolHaas and David Gianotten, Carme Pinos and Glen Murcutt.

MPavilion has also evolved as a lightning rod for creative commissions. Melbourne based artist Safa El Samad, for example, won its commission to design uniforms for its 2022/23 MPavilion staff. Another trio of designers, Sam Tomkins, Iain Maxwell and Ben Ennis-Butler who work under the brand Re-pete, won the pavilion's seating commission for their transparent and lightweight zero-waste stool design. And Melbourne-based firm Bluebottle developed the pavilion's lighting concept to visually intensify Rachaporn's design on summer nights.

A total of 500-odd international and local creatives have collaborated with MPavilion on various projects ranging from graphic design to an eponymous beer created by Preston brewery Tallboy & Moose. MPavilion Pale Ale will be available through the season from the new onsite MPavilion food truck which makes spontaneous picnics possible.

The current public program kicked off the weekend of MPavilion's opening with a rich and noisy celebration of Thai culture and Melbourne's ties to Thailand in honour of Rachaporn. It continues until April 6, 2023 with more than 250 events free events.

For a full schedule and to book:

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