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Pritzker Prize winner’s new pavilion is all about simplicity

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Glenn Murcutt’s MPavilion just opened in Melbourne

White pavilion surrounded by palm trees. John Golling

What is a pavilion? There’s no one meaning of the word—how it’s interpreted is wholly up to the person designing it. A pavilion can be a shimmery, technicolor maze. Or a robot-built cave of pointy plastic parts. A transparent dome shaped like a water droplet. Even a drone-constructed structure made from carbon fiber qualifies.

A pavilion is often used as an invitation for architects to show off, so it’s a breath of fresh air when someone decides to design a pavilion and keep it simple. Which is exactly what famed Australian architect Glenn Murcutt has done with the annual MPavilion in Melbourne.

Roof embedded with glowing lights. John Golling

The Pritzker Prize winner designed an ethereal structure to sit in the lush Queen Victoria Gardens, where it will be the hub for a series of events. The pavilion itself is understated—thin white columns support a roof that’s been covered with a stretched translucent material meant to evoke a plane’s wing. At either end of the pavilion, there are two timber alcoves for equipment storage. The design doesn’t detract from its surroundings or ask much of visitors, which is what Murcutt wanted to achieve.

“Historically, a pavilion is a tent, a light and temporary building,” he says. “I felt a crisp white building that at night could be lit from within its roof—like a lantern in the Queen Victoria Gardens, giving the pavilion a feeling of lightness—would sit comfortably in the location.”

A pavilion indeed.

Pavilion with translucent material stretched over roof. John Golling