Seeking to recreate the audiovisual experience of a rainforest within urban environs, London-based architect Amanda Levete has unveiled a weather-responsive forest canopy for Melbourne’s 2015 MPavilion. The second-edition annual pavilion, set to open in October at the Queen Victoria Gardens, is Australia’s answer to London’s emblematic Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.
The Stirling Prize winner and founder and principal of architecture and design studio AL_A used the latest nautical engineering technology to convincingly mimic the phenomenology of flowers swaying in the wind for an experience somewhat resembling an ant’s world. Levete’s design consists of a series of bendable carbon-fiber poles supporting a roof of translucent, “seemingly fragile” petals made from composite materials she created through tête-à-têtes with a yacht fabricator. Each one measures 10–16 feet wide and is less than 0.4 inches thick.
The petals moonlight as speakers that can record and playback the daily soundscape that occurs beneath the canopy. These amplifiers are then wired seamlessly through carbon-fiber poles. By night, LED lights enhance the “dappled and dreamy” ambiance. The performance space within the pavilion will be oriented to play up views of Melbourne’s skyline to the north—which could potentially include a Beyoncé-inspired tower soon—and a treeline to the east.
“Our design subverts the norms of immovable. It embraces and amplifies such distinctions, so that it speaks in response to the weather and moves with the wind rather than trying to keep it at bay,” said Levete. Joining her on the project team are Australian manufacturer mouldCAM, builders Kane Construction, and engineering firm Arup.
Initiated by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation with support from the City of Melbourne and the Victorian State Government, MPavilion is a free four-month program of talks, workshops and performances by creative collaborators. The inaugural pavilion by architect Sean Godsell, which attracted more than 640,000 visitors to 317 free events, featured walls that lifted up on pneumatic arms in resemblance to a “blooming flower.”
Unlike the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, which stipulates that the designer must not have previously built anything in the country, MPavilion—set to run from October 6, 2015 to February 7, 2016—requires only that the candidate be an “outstanding architect.”