NGV Unveil Summer Architecture Commission – Bankable Beauty

Pavilion 3Under the commendable beyond boundaries thinking outside the square directorship of Tony Ellwood, the newly established ‘pop up’ Summer Architecture Commission at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), will from this year onward become an annual event at Melbourne’s well-beloved institution.

Glinting in the sparkling sunlight of the erratic Melbourne Spring weather, the first commission, a nine metre high arched summer garden pavilion was recently unveiled in quiet style at the NGV International on St Kilda Road, Melbourne.

Paying homage to the revolutionary construction in 1959 of the Myer Music Bowl, integral to the Arts precinct in Melbourne as well as other great civic spaces such as the NGV’s Great Hall that are defined by magnificent ceilings, the already nicknamed ‘pink pavilion’ is sure to be a hit with the public.

A tour de force of materials mathematics and movement in architecture, the combined expertise of a truly creative team has produced a sophisticated structure that reflects business, corporate and community confidence in Melbourne city and its future.

It will provide a playful space for the NGV to hold various outdoor events this summer, including live music performances, panel talks, kids’ activities, perfect picnics and more. The exciting format was brought to fruition by John Wardle Architects; John Wardle, Stefan Mee and Mathew van Kooy, working with Project Engineer John Bahoric.

Pavilion 5Simply loved the way the minor arches, which were all different in form and shape, looked to be standing alone while in fact they were in reality working together to create a tension to help raise and support the largest arch of all.

The creation of this playful space has been founded on arch and load techniques learned by designers from ancient Rome to Gothic France and from Renaissance Florence to Melbourne today and produced by digital imaging.

John Bahoric has written a structural overview as guest author – read more.

Using cutting-edge engineering and a tensile fabrication system the design team ensured it would rise dramatically to form the planned series of different size and shaped arches on the open-sided shaded space of what is a unique aerodynamic canopy.

Festooned with some 1350 origami-like folded handmade hot pink, purple and burnt orange ‘blooms’ that are attached to its lightweight grey steel frame sitting lightly on the ground, its colourful canopy is a wonderful example of ‘art above’.

The fabulous floral tribute has been made from polypropylene, a material used to make Australia’s beautiful bank notes, and so it presents as an appealing building of bankable beauty.

Paviliion 4

It certainly dazzled all those who turned up to the opening to stand in awe under the eighteen metre wide arched span of an ephemeral structure.

Innovative ways of fixing the ‘blooms’ to the steel were explored.

Used more often on boats or in the fashion world, a system of eyelets helped apply the ceiling to its grey structural armature.

There is no doubt it will pop prettily during the day in the Spring and Summer sunlight, and glow gloriously at Night thanks to its lighting design by Electrolight and a lighting system by Light Project.

The pavilion is located in what many believe is the NGV’s best kept secret, a wonderful public garden space in the heart of the city; the Grollo Equiset Garden, which is supported in its initiatives by Loris Orthwein and the Spotlight Foundation.

John Wardle in his opening speech said

… we hope our response to the inaugural “NGV Summer Architecture Commission” is received by Melbourne and visitors to our city with the good humour that so many involved with its making have invested in it” John Wardle said.

The NGV has become renowned for leading the way in the Australian Arts world for over a century now.

It provides both its members and visitors with a holistic experience, one that includes creating playful party places at which they seem to excel.

Melbourne is a city significantly shaped by artists, designers, architects, engineers, choreographers, intellectuals and community groups who all live and work in its often challenging environment.

Its visual artists and creative practitioners contribute a great deal to the developing dynamics of the cultural identity of this city, which is projected to become Australia’s largest by 2030.

In that context adaptations and ‘green’ responses to the changes in environment through architecture, design and art are of vital importance.

Design teamRecently a Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture was established at the NGV to collaborate with the city’s foremost creative practitioners, leading the way forward in the development of civic and community design.

This initiative includes a partnership with the Melbourne Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Major Partner, BPM Iconic Property Development as well as other defining designers and is plus for all concerned, especially students who will imagine the future.

While design might win the day in terms of public profile, without engineering skills and techniques many of our greatest buildings or bridges and other great structures would not stand.

Pavilion 2The engineer for John Wardle Architects, John Bahoric (seen above back left next to John Wardle), has a wealth of experience, both practical and theoretical and is used to working from concept to detailed design.

He has worked on many of Melbourne’s great community and civic spaces including the exciting roof design of the multi-award-winning AAMI Park.

He explained how sparing in weight the structure’s footprint needed to be, because it sits above a concrete slab the garden has been constructed upon, which is less than a metre below the ground protecting spaces underneath.

To that end keeping the weight of the summer pavilion as light as possible became a challenge for all to join forces and surmount so that it would be strong and safe for public use.

Pavilion 7

Completed pavilion, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

Theory and practice are often poles apart and this is a proven fact young designers must embrace and understand if they are to deal with on-site daily challenges. Learning from experienced mentors such as John Bahoric is a huge advantage.

A sessional lecturer at the University of Melbourne and Monash University, Bahoric said he has his students pick up their pencils, rather than always relying on computer drawing systems. This will he believes help them surmount on the spot job challenges, if and when they happen once they are out working in the wider world.

Designed in Collingwood and assembled at Laverton North, this witty wonderful structure will bathe everyone in its colourful light as it makes a statement about safeguarding the future of innovative design in architecture in Australia and give the people of Melbourne a place to party this summer as well. It has been very well done.

Carolyn McDowall*, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015

NGV Pop Up Summer Pavilion

National Gallery of Victoria
St Kilda Road
Grollo Equiset Garden

Until 1st May, 2016
Open 10am – 5pm Daily


Looking Forward: art, architecture and our environment – Sun 8 Nov, 1pm

By 2030, Melbourne is projected to become Australia’s largest city. This discussion will explore the effects of this growth and related contemporary issues including climate change.

Architects, designers, artists and conservationists will examine the issues and intersections between culture and climate change, as well as our adaptations and responses to the environment through architecture, design and art. This event is held in collaboration with the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Free, no bookings required.

Kids’ workshop – Sun 8 November

Children will explore the connection between art, design and science through the environmentally friendly material polypropylene, used by John Wardle Architects to create their site-specific structure. Through a making activity, children will discover the links between design and function, and the versatility of this material.

Free, no bookings required.

Images: Carolyn McDowall

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