Situated in the National Gallery of Victoria’s International garden, BoardGrove Architects has designed a collection of pavilions for the NGV’s 2020 Triennial summer outdoor dining program.
The pavilions are nestled under trees and next to permanent sculptures and temporary Triennial installations. They are part of a wider celebration of art and music in the garden and operate in two states. Predominantly they are used as picnic pavilions and for a month they operate as formal dining spaces. The pavilions sit next to a powerful Triennial artwork by French street artist JR about Murray Darling Basin. This got us thinking about simple structures associated with camping along riverbeds in the Australian bush. The casual informality of swags and tents, hung over branches or propped up with poles is a quintessential image of Australian summer ‘escapism’: a desire for escapism particularly craved by many Melbournians post months of intense pandemic lockdown.
Each pavilion has a repetitive A frame structure nestled between mature trees and a raised deck which avoids disturbing the ground. During the picnicking event they act as a stage for various types of informal occupation. During
the formal dining experience, a canvas roof is slung between the frames with vertical lighting and custom long linear tables. The billowing roofs allow for low lying branches to span overhead unscathed, casting soft shadows across the interior space. With a low soft roof and feeling of being elevated in the garden each pavilion creates a sense of intimate enclosure with minimal means. Like being under a tent awning you feel like you are in an interior space but still in close proximity to the trees, long grass and artworks in the garden. Long tables were designed specifically for the formal dining event with 1.5m social distancing in mind with many legs acting as a ruler so waiting staff can safely space diners apart.
When designing these pavilion structures their short life was a particular challenge. We therefore tried to find materials or components that could be re-used in future. The raised decks are custom timber pallets factory made that can be reused after the event. The A frame structures are made from pine and can be recycled. The canvas roofs can be re-purposed for various uses from bags to clothing. The lighting is intended to be re-used for other NGV events and the tables are designed to be flat packed so the gallery can easily store for future large-scale dining events such as The Gala. Chairs are borrowed from the NGV Education Space.
The design and construction happened in a very short time frame. Melbourne was emerging from the Covid lockdown in late October and NGV’s Triennial exhibition was scheduled to open on 19th December. This small window of opportunity set the time frame for the design and construction, 7 weeks total. Working closely with CBD contracting, a joiner and a canvas specialist we refined a design concept with a series of components that were made off site and assembled on site in a very short space of time.