2019: Glenn Murcutt
In 2019, MPavilion welcomes influential Australian architect Glenn Murcutt AO as our esteemed designer. Often referenced as Australia’s most famous architect, Glenn is the only Australian recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2002), and is internationally recognised for environmentally sensitive and responsible designs with a distinctive Australian character.
Remaining a sole practitioner since establishing his practice in 1969, Glenn developed a patient and refined approach to architecture early in his career. Principally residential and regional, notable projects including the Marie Short House (1974–75) near Kempsey in NSW; the Marika-Alderton House (1990-94) in Eastern Arnhem Land, NT; and the Simpson-Lee House (1988–93) in Mount Wilson, NSW. Glenn also designed the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre (1996–99) at Riversdale, NSW, in collaboration with architects Wendy Lewin and Reg Lark, and the Australian Islamic Centre (2006–16) in Newport, Vic, in collaboration with architect Hakan Elevli.
Glenn’s architecture motto derives from his education in Indigenous practices and cultures: “Touch the earth lightly.” Responding directly to the elements of the Australian landscape through his designs and thoughtful use of materials, Glenn’s practice is a harmonious blend of modernist sensibility, local craftsmanship, Indigenous structures, and his respect for nature. “My buildings are a result of where I’m living—not trying to design an Australian architecture, but trying to design an architecture of where I am,” he has said.
A dedication to vernacular and sustainable design has seen Glenn take an experimental approach to his projects, also leading to an identifiable aesthetic: repeated use of slim structures and corrugated iron recall the iron woolshed; passive cooling is achieved through a manipulation of materials that respond to wind patterns, as well as the use of slats and fly screen. His buildings are highly adaptable. “We layer our clothing, put more on when it’s cold, take more off when it’s hot—and I think our buildings should equally respond to their climates,” Glenn has said.
Despite having never designed a project outside Australia, Glenn is highly regarded as a teacher and lecturer across the world, imparting principles about topographical and climate research and observation that can be transferred across geographies and cultures. He has been a visiting professor at Yale and Washington universities in the United States, and is a professor at the University of New South Wales. His annual Glenn Murcutt International Master Class, initiated in 2001, invites architects and senior students from around the world to Australia for a two-week studio-based program, which he has described as “a place of reconciliation, a reconciliation of place”.
As well as the Pritzker Prize, Glenn is the recipient of the 1992 Alvar Aalto Medal, the 2009 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, and the Kenneth F. Brown Asia Pacific Culture and Architecture Award (2003), among others. He is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); he was the founding President of the Australian Architecture Association, and is Chair of the Architecture Foundation Australia.
Commenting on his commission for MPavilion 2019, an initiative of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, Glenn said: “It’s extraordinary what Naomi has achieved with MPavilion. She’s one of the great people in this country for supporting the arts, and more than just art but architecture, with a special understanding of city life. MPavilion is such an interesting, assiduous project and I’m honored to be commissioned.”
Watch Glenn speak about his MPavilion commission below:
MPavilion 2019 by Glenn Murcutt
The MPavilion 2019 is firstly a real pavilion: historically, a pavilion is a tent, a light and temporary building. 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. MPavilion 2019 is designed so that it can also be very easily dismantled and relocated.
I thought that the pavilion needed to address the city, so that from within the building you could view the gardens, and beyond to the river, and the city: a foreground, a middle ground and the distant ground. Having the pavilion face north, open towards the river, I could work with good climatic conditions. With the sun at 76 degrees thereabouts at noon at summertime it achieves shade, and combined with the northern aspect, it was logical to extend the building beyond the existing square grid foundation.
When I was designing the pavilion, during the very early period, I recalled a trip I made in Mexico about thirty years ago, to the Yaxchilán ruins, which were being restored at the time. I had been invited to see the ruins with a small group and we travelled by light aircraft to an airfield slotted amongst the tropical jungle. For lunch, we had a picnic in the shade provided by the wing of the aircraft. In the high humidity of the tropical climate we laid out a tablecloth on the ground, establishing ‘place’. After lunch, I put my rucksack against the aircraft’s under carriage and laid down, and there above me was the beautiful wing, lined with aircraft fabric—which led me to the MPavilion’s roof—with the tablecloth as my place, together with my view the Yaxchilán, and the surrounding forest. It was a wonderful moment. There was my beginning of the pavilion. The MPavilion has a flap along the edge of the roof, like the aileron on an aircraft wing, which allows the fabric membrane to stretch over it and shed water.
To me it was amazing that this single-engine, small aircraft made of wood and aircraft fabric had not only taken me all that way but had also created, from these light materials, a temporary place for me to sit with in the shade and towards the view of the stone ruin, much like the MPavilion will.
MPavilion will open free to the public on Thursday 14 November 2019 until Sunday 22 March 2020.