FIELD OF VISION
The Mpavilion creator for 2018, architect Carme Pinós designs for light and the lay of the landscape.
IT DOESN’T TAKE LONG into a conversation with Spanish architect Carme Pinós to understand why she is the Naomi Milgrom Foundation’s choice to design the 2018 Mpavilion in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens. She is much lauded in the architecture profession being both an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (2011) and an RIBA International Fellow (2013) for her outstanding contribution to the profession. Coming after heavyhitters OMA – Rem Koolhaas and David Gianotten – whose 2017 pavilion has been permanently sited at Monash University, she is the fifth architect to be tapped on the shoulder for this commission.
Her fit for the project is evident on so many levels. Firstly, is her ability to listen, really listen, and interpret what the client is asking for. “Yes, you need to be a psychologist to understand what they want, but also to understand what fits with you so that you can develop empathy and connection,” says Pinós. This is true for her practice, Estudio Carme Pinós, whether the project is a small economical crematorium in the foothills of Montserrat, north of Barcelona, an ambitious tightly constrained office tower in Guadalajara, Mexico, or a proposed hotel complex on virgin coastal land in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Her concept for the water-access-only Pizota Hotel in Mexico was so rigorously considered in terms of its light impact on the landscape alongside maximum integration with nature, that the linear design, which echoed the topography, was chosen by the Pompidou Centre to add to their growing collection of architectural models. While the project didn’t eventually get the green light, Pinós is sanguine about the outcome. “One project brings ideas to another – everything is an investigation,” she says.
Her modus operandi in terms of creative process is very clearly defined. Initially there are the sketches which Pinós uses as a means to crystallise an idea, to reduce it to its elemental form. Then small models prove the concept. “My buildings must work like machines; the program has to be clear and resolved, only then do we move to the computer,” she explains.
While the building forms are often assertive from the exterior, inside they play with notions of movement, light and nature. The crematorium in Igualada, Spain, uses a subtle play of elevation (in Spain a 50cm platform doesn’t require a handrail), and a context of aromatic plants combined with a sense of floating above the landscape lifts the spirits of mourners. Her larger educational buildings open to internal courtyards, and corridors and passageways always lead towards light. A dead end is anathema to her as it denotes being trapped and she is very much tuned into a building offering up options and a sense of freedom. These concepts are often put to the test such as in the densely urban setting of her Cube II office tower in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she has sought sculptural value by inclining the facade towards the street in a “balancing gesture”.
In the design of the Mpavilion, all her experiences of projects large and small are brought to bear. While she acknowledges contemplating the project in the abstract before her visit to Australia, it was only when she experienced the site that she could see how it was being used, understand the impact of the climate, the sense of arrival and the openness to the park itself. Enchanted by the natural rolling banks in the park, and how people gravitated towards them, Pinós wanted to make the landscape, the rain, the sun and shadow an integral part of the sensory experience of the pavilion. As a result rainwater is harnessed in a channel, the earth is drawn up to meet the structure and the origami-style roof provides protection but still allows for exposure to the elements. “I never like buildings placed as if an object; I like a building to feel as if it has roots,” she says. cpinos.com; mpavilion.org
“I never like buildings placed as if an object; I like a building to feel as if it has roots.”