Carlton Gardens in Melbourne (World Heritage)

By | September 24, 2021

The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were built on the occasion of the world exhibitions in Melbourne in 1880/81 and 1888/89 and are a reminder of the heyday of the first world exhibitions. The building combines Byzantine, Romanesque and Italian Renaissance style elements. It served as the seat of the Victoria State Parliament from 1901 to 1927 and is now a museum.

Carlton Gardens in Melbourne: Facts

Official title: Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens
Cultural monument: Royal Exhibition Building, now part of the Victoria Museum, built as a huge exhibition hall in Victorian style for the World Exhibition of 1880/81 and the Exhibition of the Century 1888/89 in then prosperous Melbourne; Venue of the wrestling and weightlifting competitions during the 1956 Olympic Games, original large hall preserved: 152 m long, 7,000 m², gallery of the large hall: 4,500 m²
Continent: Australia and Oceania; See lawschoolsinusa
Country: Australia
Location: Melbourne
Appointment: 2004
Meaning: Outstanding example of the international exhibition movement in the years from 1851 to 1915

Carlton Gardens in Melbourne: History

1877 Order placed for the design of a large exhibition hall in Carlton Gardens
1879 Start of construction of the exhibition building
1880/81 World Exhibition in Melbourne with 1.3 million visitors
1885 Opening of the aquarium
1888/89 Centennial exhibition on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the European settlement of Australia; 2.2 million visitors
9.5.1901 Opening ceremony of the first Australian Federal Parliament in the Exhibition Building
1901-1927 Exhibition Building as the seat of the Parliament of the Australian state of Victoria
1912 First motor show in the Exhibition Building
1919 Temporary use of the Exhibition Building as a hospital
1941 Use of the Exhibition Building by the Royal Australian Airforce
1948 Failure of the demolition plans in the vote of the Melbourne City Council
1953 Extensive destruction of the interior and the aquarium by fire
1954 Opening of the Royal Ballroom
1975 Monument protection
1980 New name: Royal Exhibition Building
1985-1995 Restoration work
since 1998 Royal Exhibition Building part of the Victoria Museum; Demolition of the extension buildings
2001 Restoration of the northern front

The Florence Cathedral as a model – Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne

Since their inception, world fairs have served to present the latest technological and cultural achievements to a wide audience. It was already in 1851, when the first of these exhibitions took place in London, or in 1889, when Paris invited to the World’s Fair and proudly presented the Eiffel Tower. But most of the world exhibition buildings of those days were anything but forever, but, like the “glorious” Eiffel Tower, were designed and built for the foreseeable future. In contrast, the Exhibition Building, which was the largest building in Australia on the outskirts of the core city of Melbourne, was deliberately designed for permanent use. Sometimes high bike races took place in the Exhibition Building, sometimes it served as accommodation for new residents.

James Cook, who was one of the first Europeans to set foot on the fifth continent in Botany Bay near Sydney in 1770. Since then, the English crown used it as Terra nullis (“Nobody’s country”) regarded continent as a convict colony. But also free English citizens took on the arduous journey to start a new life far from their cold and damp homeland. Above all, the gold rush in the middle of the 19th century caused an unexpected economic boom. At that time the idea arose to show the world with an international exhibition which treasures could be extracted from Australian soil and which products they could be processed into. At the same time, the other colonies of the Empire should also be invited to show their goods at such an exhibition. In the »Athens of the South« the architect Joseph Reed was commissioned for an imposing »exhibition palace«, which is influenced by Byzantine and Romanesque architecture as well as by the Italian Renaissance. The fact that a huge dome rises above the large exhibition hall, which is adjoined by two plastered side wings made of brick, is thanks to Reed’s predilection for Italian architecture: It is almost a copy of the grandiose dome that Brunelleschi designed for the Florence Cathedral.

The so-called Great Hall, which takes up a tenth of the entire original exhibition space and is accessible from four entrances, was built on a substructure made of bluish stone. The long »central nave« with »transept« and the side galleries on the first floor are characteristic of the building. The interior of the exhibition building is illuminated by the narrow windows of the octagonal dome base, fan-shaped windows at each end of the »central nave« and »skylights« of the gallery. A “walkway” below the dome, which is currently not open to the public, opened up a fantastic view of the growing city in the southeast of the fifth continent to visitors to the World and Centennial Exhibition after climbing 80 steps. A lift was even installed for the exhibition of the century, with which more than 127,000 visitors were transported. The slightly protruding main entrance portal on the garden side resembles a modified triumphal arch with two low turrets attached to the sides and is characterized by a large fan-shaped upper window above the three entrance doors.

Thanks to extensive restoration, the decorations created in 1901 inside the building were saved. Even today, allegorical figures of summer and justice can be seen in arched niches. Venus and Hercules can be discovered in the vaults, and the paintings on the arches show depictions of war and peace, thanks to John Ross Anderson.

Carlton Gardens in Melbourne (World Heritage)