Melbourne’s Bamboo Mpavilion Powered By Indian Craftsmanship

Studio Mumbai’s Bijoy Jain has helped create the largest bamboo structure ever made in Australia, combining local materials and labour with Indian hand-made construction methods.

The MPavilion that Indian architect Bijoy Jain has helped create is a simple structure made from elemental materials. Touted to be the largest bamboo structure ever built in Australia, the installation brings together Indian and Australian labour and construction materials to realise a structure that invites every visitor to revel in a layered view of the earth, sky, and wind.

Jain, a consummate proponent of local construction methods that emphasise hand-creation, spent 6 intensive months with craftsmen to create the karvi panels that were ultimately planned to be tied to the bamboo scaffolding of the installation. The panel-making method was inspired by the traditional Indian practice of mixing mitti (earth) with gobar (dung) to create a coating on brick-less walls in thousands of villages around India.  

When the Melbourne weather scuttled the use of the panels, the team switched to the use of hand-woven sticks created by Indian craftsmen, thus keeping it relevant to the sustainable construction goals. The ultimate structure was realised with the use of 7 kms. of bamboo, 26 kms. of rope, and 50 tonnes of stone. The rectangular, faceted roof edges-off sharply; along these joints hang down wide, curving awning-like sheets that form a lovely canopy embrace around the sturdy bamboo underbelly.

The open installation is flushed with natural air, which is complemented by the influx of sunlight from a specially designed opening in the roof. Rainwater harvesting is taken care of by a golden well. The incredible patchwork-form of the bamboo shell throws beautiful shadows onto the mosaic flooring made of bluestone sourced from Port Fairy in Victoria.

All visitors will first be greeted by a 12 mt. high ‘tazia’, a traditional multi-leveled and usually highly-decorated and lit tower-like structure found standing at many Indian religious ceremonies and gatherings. The lighting at the installation has been designed by Melbourne-based firm, Bluebottle. The twilight hours at the 16.8 sq. mt. MPavillion are made even more special by the work of city-based music composers, Geoff Nees and David Franzke.

Architecturally, the methods employed at the installation aim to highlight the beauty, sustainability, and community growth potential of low-tech handicraft construction styles and the use of traditional forms and materials. The scale of the bamboo structure pulls one in to break down misconceptions about the possibilities that this know-how holds in a technology-dependent world.

The MPavillion, sponsored by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, has a 3-year history and will stand on Melbourne's Queen Victoria Gardens till 18 February, 2017. In this period, it will host a smorgasbord of cultural activities and engagements, including free performances, talks, workshops, and installations. Post the installation period, the MPavillion will be shifted out to a permanent location in the city.

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