15 April 2013 - ROYAL EXHIBITION BUILDING - Melbourne, Australia


- Melbourne, Australia -

G'day guys,

Today I introduce a very famous Australian building - the Royal Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne, Australia.

The Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were completed in 1880 for Melbourne’s first international exhibition, a product of the optimism, enthusiasm and energy of the people of Melbourne in the late-19th century. Melbourne was a prosperous city, basking in the wealth from the richest gold rush in the world. How better to publicise the achievements and opportunities in the colony of Victoria than by hosting an international exhibition? However, the beautiful building was to have another purpose - one of national significance.

Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament of Australia on the 1st of January 1901.

The atmosphere was radiant and illuminated the vast spaces of the building and the great sea of faces with a bright Australian glow. A sight never to be forgotten was the assemblage which, in perfect order but with exalted feeling, awaited the arrival of the Duke and Duchess in the great avenues which branch out from beneath the vast dome of the Exhibition Building. ('Argus' 10 May 1901)

On 9 May 1901, the Royal Exhibition Building hosted the opening of the first Federal Parliament. Prime Minister Barton wanted it to be as inclusive as possible. No other public building could accommodate such a large group of people, and the organisers were eager to make the occasion spectacular and memorable. The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visited Melbourne for the event, creating great excitement as they attended receptions, processions and other functions held in their honour. Melbourne's streets and buildings were elaborately decorated, and people from all over Australia visited for the celebrations surrounding the opening.

The Duke and the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, read speeches and prayers, including a message from the King, and then the federal parliamentarians were sworn in before an audience of 12, 000 dignitaries and their families. After the long process of negotiation, drafting the constitution and referenda leading up to Federation, the Commonwealth of Australia had its first elected Federal Government.

The building has hosted a great variety of public events: art shows, concerts, magic lantern shows, bicycle races, tugs of war, Olympic wrestling, baby shows, dog and poultry shows. An aquarium and museum occupied the Eastern Annexe for over 60 years.

In 1919 the Great Hall was commandeered as a hospital for patients suffering from the Spanish Influenza pandemic. Charity dances, state receptions, musical pageants, evangelist missions, and balls have all been held there. An annexe housed the first exhibitions of the Australian War Memorial, and, during the Second World War, trainee technicians from the Royal Australian Air Force lived there and tried to sleep in the echoing hall. After the war, a migrant reception centre was established in the grounds, and many new migrants spent their first evenings in Australia in the shadow of the building.

Many Melbournians remember visiting the Exhibition Building for Home Shows (first held in 1936) and Motor Shows (first held in 1912). Here, people saw the latest trends in home and garden design, and drooled over exciting imported cars. School and university examinations are still held here, as are rock concerts, garden shows and receptions.

From the 1940s, little consideration was given to the historical significance of the building, which became dilapidated and was often called a 'white elephant’. However, a gradual appreciation of its heritage value meant that restoration work commenced in 1985. The Federation scheme of the interior was restored in the 1990s, and the building is now under the care of Museum Victoria. World Heritage listing ensures that the Building will continue to serve the people of Victoria into the future.

With its meticulously-restored opulent interior, expansive galleries and soaring dome, the Great Hall continues to offer a magnificent setting for trade shows, fairs and cultural and community events.

The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were inscribed on the World Heritage list on 1 July 2004, becoming the first building in Australia to achieve World Heritage listing. Today, the Royal Exhibition Building is a campus of Museum Victoria and the gardens are managed by the City of Melbourne.

Clancy's comment: Many years ago I sat for public exams in this amazing building and I recall our headmaster giving us some wise advice. Why, because we were students from an all boys school, and the exams were also attended by young girls. He said, 'Boys, don't make a mistake and write 'brunette' instead of 'pipette'.'  

Smart man, eh?

I'm ...

1 comment:

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