Representing a sense of optimism, enthusiasm and positive energy of the people of Melbourne, Australia, the Exhibition Building and the Carlton Gardens has become a symbol of prosperity since the 19th century. It was completed in the 1880s where they hosted their first international exhibition and till date it is known for its greatness (Museums Victoria 2020). That city could not find any better way to celebrate its achievements and opportunities than by hosting many kinds of flamboyant events. Even today, it is known as one of the world's ancient exhibition pavilion, embodying the same 19th-century international exhibition. Much of the credit should be given to the Great Hall for its pedantically and sumptuous interiors, the sprawling galleries and for its dome being nearly sky-high. It provides the superlative ambience for any trade shows, fairs and community or cultural events. Becoming the first-ever building to have been enlisted in the World Heritage Listing on July 1, 2004, the Royal Exhibition Building and the Carlton Gardens continues to an epitome of pride till today for the entire nation (Willis 2004). As of now, the building is a campus of Museum Victoria while the City of Melbourne is in charge of the gardens.
A variety of internal work has been added to the Great Hall for the last twenty years or so. There have been putting up of reproduction lights, replacement of the timber floor with Cypress pine timber which is just like the former one, the building of toilets in the south-west side of the building and administration office in the north-east side, made of a meeting area and toilets in the upper floor of the south-west pavilion and a lift near the Rathdowne Street (Chen 2020). Many fire-hose reels and cupboards to have been placed inside the building and a kiosk to have been placed in the northern side at ground floor.
In January 2003, the 1985 Cypress pine floorboards have been replaced by the spotted gum boars. This repair is done in two parts, one 15m from the east side and second from the northern entrance side where the nave is crossed by north-west transepts (Ben 2019).
The term 'Royal" was not added to the name of Exhibition Building until the 1980s. It was added by Joseph Reed, the maker of this architecture who helped Melbourne in becoming one of the great historic countries of his time (Gadd 2015). Before the decided venue for Australia first international exhibition, the Royal Exhibition building, it was preceded by two more locations in Melbourne, one being the cast-iron and prefabricated exhibition hall at the Royal Mint site in William Street and Joseph Reed’s another architecture being his own Public Library and Art Gallery where already in the past some events had been conducted in the year 1866, 1875 (Dunstan 1996). However, what gave way to the deciders was the Carlton gardens. They found it to be appropriate for the event as it was close to the city, was located at a higher place and the gardens could have been altered a little to provide space for parking. This was how the location was deiced to be apt for the hosting of the international exhibition.
The opening of the building was flooded with its grandiloquence and exalting artistic crusade. There were nearly about 32,000 exhibitions with all kinds of artistic, manufactured and natural ones all round from 33 countries, not to mention cotton from Manchester, tinplate from Birmingham, ironwork from Germany and machinery of agriculture from the United States (Royal Exhibition Building 2020). Visitors were made to relax by trying out the tea in Indian and Ceylonese Courts, cocoa from Dutch and beer from Austria and Germany. It also included the statutes made from candles, eucalyptus oil and from a pile of Swallow and Ariell biscuits (Gadd 2015). A total of 1.3 million visitors visited the first exhibition of the Royal Exhibition Building. People from all of the classes visited the exhibition-making around 154% state's population. “The exhibition heralded a decade of immense cultural, social and economic activity,” says Dr. Charlotte Smith of Museum Victoria, author of Visions of Colonial Grandeur (Gadd 2015). This structure gave the business to a lot of public and private sectors by constructing new law courts or banks or cathedrals next to lavish hotels, theatres and galleries, trying to establish a replica of the Greece, Rome and Renaissance Italy. It also grabbed the attention of the government and nearly in few years of its establishment, the city got their first electric lights, telephones, lifts and tramways.
Not only Australia, but people who visited from other countries would stay after the closure of the exhibition so that they could have a more cordial relationship with trading partners of Australian and those beyond Britain. The growth of the city gave a tough competition to another city of Australia, Sydney, which was settled nearly half a century before the establishment of Melbourne. A Daily Telegraph journalist, George Sala, devised the term "Marvellous Melbourne" which became a very catchy tabloid name for Melbourne (The Age 2004).
Melbourne gained so much of prominence within years that the alteration of powers between Sydney and Melbourne was seen in 1888 when the New South Wales was paid tribute with conducting an international exhibition in Melbourne rather than in Sydney for its anniversary of European settlement. Other events were all conducted in New South Wales; however, the Melbourne exhibition gained more appraisals. For that time, it was a huge success in terms of size, scope and the visitors that attended the event. It was the first to have been opened up for the entire night. Even though much of the turmoil in the 1890s in Melbourne resulting in strikes, epidemics and plague of locusts, Melbourne still managed to become Australia pre-eminent metropolis resulting it becoming the national capital of Australia in 1901. The inauguration of the first parliament session was held in 1880 at the exhibition building. Lord Hopetoun was sworn to be the first Governor-General of Australia and Edmund Barton to be the nation’s first Prime Minister (McDonald 2019).
After becoming a national capital, Melbourne was always intended to be a temporary capital of Australia. However, it remained so till 1927 due to the ongoing disputes over the Canberra construction. This issue was this new city was to be established between Melbourne and Sydney and none of them were ready to accept the other as a national capital. The exhibition building in this commotion became a place of work where it was made use of for different purposes. For centuries it provided shelter to an aquarium called The Man-Eating Crocodiles (Gadd 2015). It was a perfect location for beauty pageants, concerts, royal visits, hot air balloon mountings, boxing matches, tug of war and farthing races. During the period of 1918-1920, a global pandemic stroked the entire world, making the Exhibition building a temporary yet rough and ready hospital. At the time of Second World War, it became a training camp for the air force where soldiers and personnel were trained on the art of wireless mechanics, making instruments and digging trenches (Hinchliffe 2020). After the war, the area was used as placing temporary huts to provide refuge to migrants and help them start with a new life. During the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, it became a venue for wrestling, weightlifting and basketball (Hinchliffe 2020).
As for now, it is used for conducting university exams and as a graduation location for flower shows, rock concerts and the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular. Recently, in 2015, Lovell Chan Architects and Heritage Consultants have been hired for $20 million renovations of the Royal Exhibition Building (Johnson 2015). The Museum Victoria CEO, Dr. Patrick Greene said, “We look forward to opening a new multi-level Royal Exhibition Building experience in 2017 and expect it will become a very popular Melbourne tourist destination. Expanded access and storytelling will enhance visitors’ exploration of the building’s rich history and significance locally, nationally and internationally, along with the rare opportunity to enjoy Melbourne’s oldest city outlook from the top of the dome.” (Johnson 2015)
It is one of the only artifacts of the 19th-century exhibition buildings to have survived all this while. The building is a matter of pride for the people of Australia to have been able to make it a symbol of wealth and confidence for the people of Australia. It has since decades been a host of exhibitions like Melbourne Exhibition 1880, the Centennial exhibition of 1888, inaugural of Federal Parliament from 1901 to 1927 (Lovell 2016). Not just being a host for prestigious events, it is also and majorly known for its style of Renaissance design and pattern and the structure of the dome. It is placed above the Brunelleschi’s Florence Cathedral which is symbolic of the confidence of the young people of Victoria since 1880. Complimentary to that is the structure of the Carlton Gardens, which it adds up to the aesthetic beauty of the monument. It is known for its significant "Gardenesque” style, combined with the asymmetrical design of specimen trees, parterre garden beds. These gardens hold a botanical significance for their humungous collection of plants like conifers, palms, all kinds of evergreen and deciduous trees. These gardens contain quite distinctive trees like Acmena ingens, an unusual Harpephyllum caffrum and the most popular of all, Taxodium distichum (Chan 2020).
As for local significance, the internal garden bed fencing shows the historic and ancient practice of the 19th-century management practices, which is very unusual and hard to find now. The Tennis Court Dressing Pavillion is deemed to be a recreational venue introduced during the early twentieth century. It holds a lot of significance to the local people. This pavilion is quite similar to that of Flagstaff Gardens an ancient artifact of the Melbourne City Council during the inter-war era.
A city is well known for its culture and the kind of historic semblance it holds. The Royal Exhibition Building has managed this far to keep its ancient spark alive till date. The government of Melbourne had now and again made alteration is this magnificent architecture to maintain its longevity which is highly commendable and praise-worthy globally. It is seen as a perfect venue for any public or social event for the kind of ethnicity it holds and the kind of spacious and remarkable place it provides. The people of Australia feel pride in hosting up any event here as it helps them to show that they are not behind any other country when it comes to hosting events and maintaining that ancient touch. The time and hard work the firm of Reeds invested is seen in its detailed setup and the management there are able to keep this monument intact and falter it. Unequivocally, it stands as an ancient structure which generations to come shall know about and even experience the kind of strength when they come to know that this very building has saved their country during the times of perils.
Museums Victoria. 2020. Royal Exhibition Building.
Willis, Elizabeth. The Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne: A Guide. Museum Victoria, 2004.
Gadd, Nick. 2015. The Royal Exhibition building of 'Marvellous Melbourne': a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 10. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/apr/06/the-royal-exhibition-building-of-marvellous-melbourne-a-history-of-cities-in-50-buildings-day-10
Chen, Lovell. 2020. Physical Survey- Royal Exhibition Building. https://www.heritage.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/55203/Vol-1-3.0.pdf
Dunstan, David. Victorian Icon: The Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Vol. 82. Exhibition Trustees, 1996.
McDonald, Jan, Phillipa C. McCormack, Michael Dunlop, David Farrier, Jess Feehely, Louise Gilfedder, Alistair J. Hobday, and April E. Reside. "Adaptation pathways for conservation law and policy." Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 10, no. 1 (2019): e555.
Johnson, Sian. 2015. Lovell Chen to renew Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building. https://architectureau.com/articles/lovell-chen-to-renew-melbournes-royal-exhibition-building/
Lewis, Ben. The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting. Ballantine Books, 2019.
Royal Exhibition Building. 2020. The opening of the Melbourne International Exhibition on 1 October 1880 was a grand affair. https://museumsvictoria.com.au/reb/stories/visions-of-colonial-grandeur/the-courts/
The Age. 2004. He came, he saw, he marveled. https://www.theage.com.au/national/he-came-he-saw-he-marvelled-20040110-gdx34t.html
Hinchliffe, Joe. 2020. Uncovering the Exhibition Building's secret WWII stories. https://museumsvictoria.com.au/article/uncovering-the-exhibition-buildings-secret-wwii-stories/
Lovell, Chen A. 2020. Appendix A Victorian heritage register citation. https://www.heritage.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/71240/HIS-appendicies.pdf
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