2015 Summer Architecture Commission

John Wardle Architects

Free entry

NGV International

Ground Level

24 Sep 15 – 1 May 16

The Summer Architecture Commissions are a new initiative of the Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture offering the opportunity for emerging and established architects to present their architecture to a broad audience in the Grollo Equiset Garden at NGV International. For 2015 John Wardle Architects (JWA) has developed the inaugural Commission.

Taking inspiration from the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, an iconic public performance venue in Melbourne, JWA’s playful steel, timber and textile structure will create a theatrical centrepiece offering shade, retreat and a place for performance and workshops.

Adaptable and evocative, the structure merges the digital and the handmade. The design utilises 3D modelling and cutting edge engineering and fabrication systems to achieve the generous span of a lightweight steel structure. Beneath this outer high-tech layer of precision-engineered steel is a low-tech layer of timber, and a mass array of 1350 hand folded polypropylene elements. These 3-D textile elements are individually suspended to create a textural pink skin that provides colourful shade by day and a unique nocturnal glow.

The structure is open sided, lifting dramatically on high arches. It provides partial enclosure for visitors while also fostering conversations about the capacity of architecture to activate and enrich public spaces, and the role of the architect to work in collaboration with industry to devise new and progressive fabrication and construction systems that deliver technical, structural and ecological benefits.

“People normally look at a building the way it appears at first glance or from a distance. What kind of form does it have? What kind of silhouette does it create? 
In the mid range, there’s the question of how a building sits abutting a certain aspect of landscape, the ground surface or a neighbouring building. Finally, at a detailed level, there’s a textural fascination with being up close and drawing in all of the senses, such as the acoustic qualities within buildings, the tactile aspects and the strong visual aspects of being right up close.Most buildings require these three levels of appreciation. Very often it’s the third level – the detail – that provides disappointment. We want to get in close and interrogate the detail. That’s often something that will draw a person back to a place for a second or third reading because of the level of richness of the experience.With the Summer Architecture Commission we are looking at these three levels while also paying homage to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. An iconic Melbourne building that is an amazing, graceful, exuberant and incredibly innovative piece of civic design of that era. We thought maybe we could draw from the forms and expression of the enclosure, put it in a different landscape and build it out of a new structural system, that was more related to our time.We’ve never had to design a building where the process of dismantling and possible reuse has come into play. We asked ourselves could it be disassembled and reassembled? Can it provide for other uses? Can it be manipulated to take on a whole new range of performative possibilities? Similar to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, a high level of engineering sophistication and material specificity is integral to the design in order to delicately balance the duality of span and strength. These properties come from both its form and materiality in equal balance.The structure started its life as a lightweight timber structure and has evolved into something different. Through this process of resolving the design and following the project’s innate ‘invented logic’, it has lead to innovations in its own right.”
— Architect’s statement

Architects John Wardle Architects (John Wardle, Stefan Mee, Mathew Van Kooy)
Engineer John Bahoric
Lighting Design Electrolight
Lighting System Light Project
Landscape Design Oculus
Fabrication and Assembly Engineering Directions
Textile Skin Megara
Paint Dulux

This commission is possible with support from The Spotlight Foundation.
The NGV Garden is generously supported by Loris Orthwein.

About John Wardle Architects

John Wardle established his architectural practice in Melbourne and has led the growth of the practice from working on small domestic dwellings to university buildings, museums and large commercial offices.

John has an international reputation as a design architect and has developed a design process that builds upon ideas that evolve from a site’s topography, landscape, history and context and a client’s particular aspirations and values. The architecture of John Wardle Architects (JWA) is closely tailored to its place and highly experiential in nature.

John is attuned to the importance of detail – it is through the detail that the nature of material, the fit to function and the experience of occupation is expressed.

John has formed strong links with both artists and public art galleries and as a practicing architect and board member of both the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art and The Ian Potter Museum of Art has contributed to important public art programs.

In 2006 and 2002, JWA was awarded the Australian Institute of Architects Sir Zelman Cowen Award for the most outstanding work of public architecture in Australia. The practice has also been awarded the Harold Desbrowe-Annear Residential Award on three occasions, the Victorian Architecture Medal for a second time in 2008 and the Esmond Dorney Award for Residential Architecture in 2012.

The Shearers Quarters received The Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture in 2012 at the AIA National Architecture Awards and the Villa of the Year at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore. The Robin Boyd Award for the Fairhaven Beach House was again awarded to JWA in 2013.

The work of JWA is published widely in Australian and international journals and has been celebrated in a book Volume – John Wardle Architects published by Thames and Hudson, London in 2008. A new book on the practice will be launched at the Summer Architecture Commission early in 2016.

Select Works

The making of the inaugural Summer Architecture Series