Synthetic Environments

The Victorian Government has teamed up with NGV Melbourne to deliver a new programme that celebrates, promotes and strengthens Victorian design. A new and performative structure, built in the Grollo Equiset Garden, showcases a dynamic reinvention of the suburban car wash, conceived for the 2016  Architecture Commission.

Melbourne-based M@ STUDIO Architects have constructed a unique and ephemeral location that responds to the triviality and semiotics of travel. Haven’t you always wanted…? is based upon the dimensions of a real car wash based in Blackburn,  mimicking the everyday notion of transportation through globalised ideals.

The commission pushes the boundaries of expectations; through re-imagining recognisable icons of the American road trip and westernised culture, the imitative space is given a new sense of life and meaning through being moved into an aesthetically-driven gallery space. Not only are is the ordinariness of a car wash reduced into bathos as an outdoor playground, its meaning as a symbol of a more economically developed landscape is thrown into question.

In place of cement and fluorescent lighting, the structure has a lightweight steel body with walls made of layered cricket netting and a translucent polycarbonate roof, this is only highlighted through a bright pink astro turf complete with rubberised humps and road markings. Making sure to alienate viewers in their mental evocations of the space, a “car wash” sign becomes illuminated at night, whilst events, talks, live music performances are hosted somewhere between a virtual arena and a realistic evocation.

Showering audiences with mist and curtains of red plastic, the synthetic environment offers ideas about commercialised lifestyles, the future of the planet and a fast-paced society in which activities can be completed without leaving the seat of a vehicle.

1. Haven’t you always wanted…? M@ STUDIO Architects for the 2016 NGV Architecture Commission. Photo: Sean Fennessy.