MPavilion (24 01 24)

MPavilion 10 Chair Commission

MPavilion 10 Chair Commission

MPAVILION 10 Chair Commission

MPAVILION 10 Chair Commission


Circle|Square by Davidov Architects has been selected by Tadao Ando for this year’s MPavilion Chair Commission. The Pritzker Prize Laureate and MPavilion 10 architect chose the design, created by Robert Davidov, Wendy Chen and Ben Schmideg, from almost 100 submissions – an MPavilion record.

‘It was an honour and great fun to select the winner of the MPavilion 10 Chair Commission competition,’ said Ando from Osaka. ‘Davidov’s concept shares my fascination with the geometry of circles and squares and is responsive to the pavilion’s design.’

‘We congratulate Davidov Architects on winning this year’s Chair Commission and for their deep consideration in responding to Tadao Ando’s design. We look forward to seeing the visual synergies between the two,’ said Naomi Milgrom AC, commissioner of MPavilion. ‘The Foundation is grateful for the thought and care so many established and emerging designers put into their submissions. Despite a tight brief, we saw scores of highly creative and captivating designs.’

Ahead of today’s announcement, we sat down with Davidov Architects to talk MPavilion, Tadao Ando and the Circle|Square.

MPavilion 10 Chair Commission: Circle|Square by Davidov Architects, photograph by Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
MPavilion 10 Chair Commission: Circle|Square by Davidov Architects, photograph by Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
MPavilion 10 Chair Commission: Circle|Square by Davidov Architects, photograph by Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
MPavilion 10 Chair Commission: Circle|Square by Davidov Architects, photograph by Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Q&A With
Davidov Architects

Can you tell us about your own experiences of MPavilion – do you have any standout memories?

MPavilion’s annual commission has been a highlight for us over the past decade, for its architectural and cultural contribution to Melbourne. Past favourites include the inaugural commission by Sean Godsell and the poetry of Glenn Murcutt’s MPavilion 6; Robert also has fond memories of volunteering during the construction of Studio Mumbai’s pavilion in 2016. We have always been excited to discover who the next architect will be and how they will interpret such an open brief.

This year, Tadao Ando has been commissioned, with MPavilion 10 his first Australian project. Has his architecture influenced you, personally or professionally?

Tadao Ando’s work has had a profound impact on the direction of Davidov Architects. In 2019, Robert made a pilgrimage to Japan and was fortunate enough to visit over a dozen projects completed by Ando, including the collection of works on Naoshima Island. The opportunity to spend time in and around his buildings and take in the subtleties – from the carefully controlled use of light, restrained detailing and material palette to the purity of form and planning – to this day informs so much of our approach to architecture and interior design.

What was it that prompted you to enter the MPavilion 10 Chair Commission competition – was there a particular trigger?

We have always been interested in furniture and industrial design, and have previously designed bespoke pieces for some of our projects. Being avid admirers of Tadao Ando’s work, we were thrilled to learn he had been selected for this year’s MPavilion. It was for this reason that we seized the opportunity to engage with Ando’s design. We quickly gravitated towards a response we felt would pay homage to the lessons of restraint and geometry we had learnt through studying his work, while also clearly representing our own approach to design.

Can you give us an insight into the process through which you collaborated on the Circle|Square design: the inspiration, ideation, execution?

Responding to the description and imagery provided by Tadao Ando, our initial impetus was the emphasis he placed on the circle and square. The exploration of architecture that celebrates pure geometry is a signature of his work, yet we sensed the freedom of the MPavilion brief allowed a design response that was truly singular. This observation enabled us to workshop the core concept of the stool quite rapidly; the stool needed to resonate with the pavilion in a simple, effortless way. We wanted to capture the circle and square and little else. Other considerations such as material selection, timing and scale of production, as well as practical concerns, then informed the detailing and construction.

How did it feel to discover you weren’t just shortlisted but had won the MPavilion Chair Commission competition? What does it mean for you to be selected by Tadao Ando and have your work profiled at MPavilion and the Powerhouse?

Learning of our selection for this year’s MPavilion was an incredible and humbling honour – but knowing our design was chosen by Tadao Ando made the achievement especially meaningful for us and our practice. Having the Circle|Square included in the Powerhouse collection alongside the other MPavilion Chair Commissions was another thrilling discovery and one we could not have envisaged.

Finally, as we prepare to celebrate our milestone decade, what would you consider MPavilion’s legacy?

The ongoing commitment to architecture, culture and community fostered by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation through the annual MPavilion program is something we believe stands as an exemplar of the critical role of patronage in our society. For an art form that can be seen as inaccessible, MPavilion’s presence in the city over the last decade has been a remarkable vehicle for the public to interact with new forms of architecture as well as ideas.

The Circle|Square will be exhibited as part of the MPavilion Chair Commissions gift at Powerhouse Castle Hill during Sydney Design Week, 15–24 September. Learn more here.

The MPavilion Chair Commissions have won a number of awards, including: Silver Prize at the Design Educates Awards 2023 in the ‘Product Design’ category for ‘Re-pete’ chair; Winner at the Good Design Awards 2022 in the ‘Product Design – Furniture & Lighting’ category for ‘The Dancer’ chair; and Award of Merit at the Designers Australia 2021 Awards in the ‘Use’ category for Stool Dolly.


MPavilion 9: ‘Re-pete’

Recyclable Polyethylene Terephthalate (rPET) plastic.

Designed by Sam Tomkins, Iain (Max) Maxwell and Ben Ennis-Butler (Canberra Design Lab), Canberra.

The ‘Re-pete’ stool drew inspiration from the billowing and cellular forms of (all)zone’s MPavilion 9, refracting its dappled light. The designers were also influenced by the iconic Butterfly Stool by Sori Yanagi and Panton chair by Verner Panton. It demonstrates their commitment to sustainable and circular design practice, producing the stools in recyclable Polyethylene Terephthalate (rPET) plastic, the equivalent of 220 plastic bottles of material.

Photograph by Marie-Luise Skibbe.

MPavilion 8: ‘the Dancer’

Recycled plastic.

Designed by Kerli Valk and Bradley Mitchell (nüüd studio), Melbourne.

MPavilion 8 again responded to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, with ‘The Dancer’ bench reflecting the need for connection and to ‘dance’ together. Each bench is a gentle arc, holding the memory of the circle that it can rejoin. Made of post-consumer recycled plastic, the vibrant yellow benches struck the optimistic tone needed after 262 days of COVID-19 lockdowns in Melbourne.

Photograph by Gavin Green.

MPavilion 7: ‘STOOL DOLLY’

Bamboo ply.

Designed by Holly Board and Peter Grove (BoardGrove Architects), Melbourne.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, MPavilion events were spread across digital platforms and 11 Melbourne locations. A playful response to the need for physical and social distancing during the pandemic, the ‘Stool Dolly’ chair could be positioned at a COVID-safe ‘arm’s length,’ 1.5 m apart. Joined together, they are reminiscent of children’s paper doll chains, strips of figures connected with outstretched hands.

Photograph by Anthony Richardson.


Powder-coated metal.

Designed by Chris Connell and Chris Connell Design, Melbourne; made by Grazia and Co, Sydney.

This stool was inspired by the subtle curvature of MPavilion 6 designed by Glenn Murcutt AO, Australia’s most internationally recognised architect. The red stool stood in contrast to the aesthetic lightness of the pavilion, foregrounding the importance of relationships and conversation. The colour also symbolises red earth, referring to the respect Murcutt’s practice demonstrates for the Australian landscape.

Photograph by Rory Gardiner.

MPavilion 5: ‘stool’

Birch plywood.

Designed by Carme Pinós and Estudio Carme Pinós, Spain; made by Focus Taller – Francesc Rubio, Spain.

MPavilion 5 by Carme Pinós was inspired by origami with floating planes resting at angles on elevated points, resembling a wing that beckons towards the city. The Stool – intersecting, hand-tinted pieces of birch plywood – was designed to complement the pavilion, in particular its origami motif. Designed to be stored flat, the Stool can be easily disassembled; its green-tint harmonising with the verdant Queen Victoria Gardens.

Photograph by Marie-Luise Skibbe.

MPavilion 4: ‘Stool’

Porcelain, ‘Matrice Sostanza’ stoneware finish.

Designed by Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA); made by European Ceramics, Perth.

MPavilion 4 was inspired by the Roman amphitheatre, embedded in the local landscape through its enclosing mounds of earth planted with Australian natives. The roof, a monumental aluminium-clad box, appears to float in space, inviting visitors to gravitate towards it. This stool – a minimalist porcelain cube – echoed the clean, sleek lines of the pavilion roof.

Photograph by Gavin Green.

MPavilion 3: ‘Stool’

Locally sourced timber.

Designed by Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai; made by Craftspeople in Mumbai, India.

MPavilion 3 designer Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai is unique in working collaboratively with local artisans, craftspeople and drafters. His pavilion – made of 7km of bamboo, 50 tons of stone and 26km of rope – and stools connected the visitors to the earth below and the heavens above.

Photograph by Rory Gardiner.

MPavilion 2: ‘tom’

Injection moulded polyethylene.

Designed by Janos Korban and Stefanie Flaubert (Korban/Flaubert), Sydney; made by Schiavello, Melbourne.

Tom is the result of a series of model experiments that focused on merging and reforming two simple shapes: a cone and cylinder. The result is a pure form where the two shapes intersect. It perfectly anchors the delicate, translucent ‘forest canopy’ pavilion designed by the English architect Amanda Levete, like the base of a tree.

Photograph by Rory Gardiner.

MPavilion 1: ‘CHAIR’

Steel, Laminex.

Designed by Sean Godsell and Sean Godsell Architects, Melbourne; made by Workspace Commercial Furniture, Perth.

Sean Godsell, founder of Sean Godsell Architects, designed the inaugural MPavilion as well as its chairs – demonstrating the long-held desire of architects to apply their vision to furniture. The result – a laminated wood seat on bent tubular steel legs – forms part of the holistic design of MPavilion 1. Its smooth form complements the angular geometry of the pavilion, conjuring the practice’s clean and bold aesthetic.

Photograph by Rory Gardiner.

Wominjeka (Welcome). We acknowledge the people of the Eastern Kulin Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which MPavilion stands. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present – and recognise they have been creating, telling stories and caring for Country for thousands of generations.

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