The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING W - LUKE SLAT­TERY

Carme Pinós is fresh off the flight from Barcelona. Her dark eyes are bright, even though she says she barely slept a wink. Why the rest­less night? I ask when we meet at the Mel­bourne HQ of busi­ness­woman Naomi Milgrom’s MPavilion project, de­signed in its fifth year by Barcelona-based Es­tu­dio Carme Pinós. “Too many things to think about,” she says with a head-height twirl of the hand. Where oth­ers crave the anaes­the­sia of in­flight en­ter­tain­ment, Pinós prefers to crunch through de­sign prob­lems at 10,000m, sketch­book in hand. “I am never bored,” she de­clares.

The MPavilion of­fices are on the se­cond floor of Milgrom’s base at the for­mer red­brick Rosella tomato sauce fac­tory in Cre­morne, a 1sqkm an­nex of Rich­mond. The com­plex, from which Milgrom runs her Sus­san women’s cloth­ing em­pire and ex­pand­ing port­fo­lio of phil­an­thropic projects, was re­pur­posed by Syd­ney ar­chi­tects Dur­bach Block Jag­gers in 2008 and now looks on ap­proach more like a Swiss phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany.

But looks can – and in this case are prob­a­bly meant to – de­ceive. The in­te­rior is so richly ap­pointed with con­tem­po­rary art that it looks and feels like a semipri­vate Tate: think of it as Milgrom Mod­ern by the Yarra.

I meet Pinós in a con­fer­ence room com­manded by Thomas Struth’s out­sized pho­to­graph of the Perg­a­mon Mu­seum in­te­rior. De­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture books are scat­tered about, and a ze­bra skin is splayed un­der­foot.

Down the cor­ri­dor is a store­room crammed with pro­to­types of her pavil­ion-in-progress. There are wooden frames and purlins, and wire cages, or gabions, filled with blue­stone frag­ments. The gabions have been de­signed as seats with re­mov­able con­crete cov­er­ings. Above them will hover a lat­ticed roof of in­ter­sect­ing planes. Pinós has con­cluded that her pavil­ion, which will grace Mel­bourne’s Queen Vic­to­ria Gar­dens from Oc­to­ber to Fe­bru­ary, needs a lit­tle some­thing ex­tra. And she has promised Milgrom’s peo­ple a “sur­prise”. The ta-dah mo­ment has ar­rived.

From a large, flat brown-pa­per par­cel she pro­duces three pieces of hand-tinted grey-green birch ply­wood, two of which slot to­gether cross­wise. Next she locks an el­lip­ti­cal seat pad, re­sem­bling a stylised eye, into a notch on each side. A sta­biliser fits into the cen­tre of the eye. Once the pieces are firmly in place Pinós rocks her por­ta­ble stool back and forth to gauge its sta­bil­ity and sits on it, beam­ing proudly at the small in­quis­i­tive crowd drawn from of­fices up and down the cor­ri­dor.

By con­ven­tion each MPavilion project finds a per­ma­nent home some­where in the city: last year’s Rem Kool­haas and David Gian­ot­ten de­sign was adopted by Monash Uni­ver­sity in Clay­ton. “When the Pinós pavil­ion is moved I’ve got to get one of these stools,” I hear some­one say. I would wa­ger that the de­sign-savvy au­di­ence is think­ing, as one: “Breuer chair, Eames lounge – Pinós stool.” In the mean­time the Barcelon­abased de­signer’s “sur­prise” will al­low 50 ex­tra peo­ple to sit in the shel­tered space of a pavil­ion that has been con­ceived, in essence, as a meet­ing point.

Es­tu­dio Carme Pinós is a small Barcelona-based prac­tice with a broad re­mit. It works in pub­lic (mu­se­ums, the­atres, schools, sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties) and com­mer­cial of­fice ar­chi­tec­ture, as well as pub­lic and pri­vate hous­ing, ur­ban land­scape and de­sign. Unit­ing all these cat­e­gories are two seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory con­cerns: with cities and with na­ture. But the na­ture-cul­ture para­dox is only su­per­fi­cial. Pinós in­sists that even a Pal­la­dian villa on a man­i­cured es­tate is, in some sense, a city. “All ar­chi­tec­ture is city,” she de­clares, rather grandly. “With a lit­tle house, thought­fully de­signed, you start to make a city.”

To her mind the best cities are so­cial en­vi­ron­ments. “It is the job of city to so­cialise. Good cities are big meet­ing places con­structed from small meet­ing places: streets, parks, prom­e­nades, plazas. So I try to de­sign build­ings and spaces where routes in­ter­sect and there is an ex­change, and peo­ple can feel like part of a com­mu­nity.” She hopes that her MPavilion, de­signed with these civic ideals up­per­most in mind, will be a “pub­lic point, a place to at­tract peo­ple, to make events, to make things hap­pen, and also to con­tem­plate the land­scape and to take part in na­ture.”

From the mo­ment of Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavil­ion in 1929 and Al­var Aalto’s Fin­nish Pavil­ion of 1939, this im­per­ma­nent built form has been an im­por­tant show­case of fresh ar­chi­tec­tural ideas. But Pinós won­ders if her Mel­bourne pavil­ion re­ally sits within the tra­di­tion, for it is nei­ther a de­sign lab­o­ra­tory nor a state­ment of artis­tic in­tent. “My pavil­ion’s form is de­ter­mined by its func­tion,” she ex­plains. “Naomi wanted a place in the city for an event. And I like that. I also like to of­fer the city an ex­pe­ri­ence.”

She re­calls a dis­cus­sion with Milgrom, who was pleased that the struc­ture would of­fer fil­tered sun­light, wind pro­tec­tion and views of the city and gar­dens. At the same time her bene­fac­tor – Aus­tralia’s eighth-rich­est woman – was con­cerned about a dous­ing from Mel­bourne’s not in­fre­quent sum­mer storms. “Naomi gave me a lot of free­dom,” Pinós of­fers in her husky His­panic bass. “But Naomi was very wor­ried about the wa­ter. She says, ‘You can do any­thing you want but please pro­tect us from the rain’. I say, ‘OK, then I’m go­ing to play with the wa­ter.’ I make a chan­nel [of poly­mer] for

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