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Royal Exhibition Building (REB)

Peter Maltezos's picture
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Royal Exhibition Building

From Walking Melbourne

The National Trust guide to the historic and architectural landmarks of central Melbourne

 

This is Australia’s first World Heritage listed building, added in 2004 because it is one of the most important survivors of the great exhibitions of the 19th century. Built for an International Exhibition in 1880, the main hall, with a dome reminiscent of Florence Cathedral, is the oldest such hall, and the only one built for industrial goods remaining in the world. Designed by Joseph Reed and Partner Barnes, the Hall and the gardens are all that remain of a vast complex of permanent and temporary annexes that once extended far to the north.

A second, much larger Centennial Exhibition was held  in 1888, and the first Australian Federal Parliament was inaugurated here with much ceremony in 1901. Since then the buildings have managed to maintain a central role in Melbourne life, surviving calls to demolish it as a ‘white elephant’.

The western annexe housed State Parliament from 1901-1927 (while federal Parliament occupied Parliament House), and later the Motor Registration Board.

The Eastern Annexe housed a ballroom, a war museum, and an aquarium, while the space between the annexes was occupied by a velodrome and sports oval, used for St. Patrick’s day fairs, then a WWII Army Barracks, later re-used as a migrant camp.

The main building hosted ‘monster’ balls, concerts, and fetes up to WWI, was used as a hospital during the 1919 influenza epidemic, and after WWII was home to ever popular Home, Car and Boat Shows (and High School exams).

It is now part of the Museum of Victoria. Unattractive extensions of the 1950s/60s that had replaced the earlier annexes were demolished in 1999, and the spectacular interior repainted in the ornate 1901 colour scheme.

It continues to host trade, art and flower shows, conferences and parties.

The gardens, flanking the building to the north and south, with their grand tree-lined leading, were designed to complement it, and include notable elements such as the fabulous Hochgurtel Fountain at the south entrance, and the French Fountain and Westgarth Drinking Fountain at the east.

The Royal Exhibition Building in all its splendour

Under construction.

 

Drawing of REB with all its annexes. How it would have looked in 1888.

 

Edwardian postcard of REB

 

Aerial of REB and Carlton Gardens showing former oval.

 

The Royal Exhibition Building ~ 1940s.

 

Another postcard of The Royal Exhibition Building ~ 1960s.

 

REB with annexes from 1960s and 1980s before removal to clear land for new museum and restoration of north side of the REB.

 

A recent photograph I've taken of the REB. smiley

 

The fountain at the southern entrance of The Royal Exhibition Building is known as ‘The Hochgurtel Fountain’ after its creator.

 

Recent postcard of REB at night.

 

The breathtaking interior of The Royal Exhibition Building.

 

Old photograph of interior with former organ.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Four recent shots of mine.

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REB ceiling and wall art

Allegorical images

 

Morning

 

Night

 

Justice

 

Truth

 

Spring

 

Summer

 

Autumn

 

Winter

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Peter Maltezos's picture

This image below of Federation is of Britannia enthroned above a shield of the Union Jack welcoming the six federated states of Australia, or so they say, some believe it’s all about Victoria’s arrogance.

 

 

Below we see the most famous painting to relate to the REB:

The opening of federal parliament at the REB 9 May, 1901.

Oil on canvas

Tom Roberts (1856 - 1931)

 

Tom Roberts' commission to paint the opening of federal parliament was the largest he ever received.

'The Big Picture', as he called it, was to preoccupy him for a number of years and drain his energies. His painting has become an Australian national symbol. He has depicted the scene in the Exhibition Building from an imaginary vantage point in the eastern transept.

 

The same event painted by Charles Nuttall on a postcard below.

 

 

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The Exhibition Observation Deck

 

The painting above shows the observation deck surrounding the dome that was open during both international exhibitions, 1880 and 1888.

 

Below are two views from the observation deck.

 

Looking south-east you can see The Carlton (Exhibition) Gardens in the foreground and from left to right; The Cyclorama roof, old St Vincent’s Hospital, Eastern Hill Fire Station and St. Patrick’s Cathedral minus spires.

 

Looking south down to the corner of Spring and Latrobe Streets.

___________________________________________________________________

 

Melbourne’s first aquarium, was located in the eastern annex of the REB.

 

In 1908, 30,000 people watched the balloon King Edward the VII being launched from the Exhibition Oval. 

 

Grollo Fountain, officially inaugurated by Princess Alexandra in October 1980, reflected in the mirrors of the now demolished Centennial Hall that stood in the north-east corner of the REB.

I've heard that the fountain is either in storage somewhere or was destoyed when removed.

 

20 cent coin featuring the REB, minted for the centenary of Australia’s federation.

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I recently acquired this ticket to the celebrations of the opening of federal parliament at the REB.

 

Four more old postcards.

 

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In 2004, The Royal Exhibition Building was Australia's first World Heritage listed building!

Extract from a newspaper article (The Age):

World listing for city's treasure

July 2, 2004

Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building has become Australia's first building to win World Heritage status. The surprise decision, made in China late yesterday by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, gives legal protection to the building - the site of the first Australian Parliament in 1901 - and the surrounding Carlton Gardens. Federal Environment and Heritage Minister David Kemp said the listing was great for Australia. "It's an enormous achievement and it's going to attract a great deal of attention from international visitors... this is going to be a unique piece of world heritage here in Melbourne." Premier Steve Bracks welcomed the announcement. "Victorians have always known we had something special, and now the rest of the world knows it too," he said. "This recognition puts Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building on par with Athens' Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London and the Taj Mahal, all previously listed on the register." Australian Council of National Trusts chairman Simon Molesworth was stunned by the news when The Age contacted him last night. "Only last week I had it confirmed to me that the Federal Government was pessimistic (that the building would be listed)," he said. "This is an outstandingly important announcement for all Australians and indeed the world community." Dr Kemp said a significant factor in the listing was the historical importance of the international exhibition movement, which was a key step towards the development of the global economy. The Exhibition Building hosted international exhibitions in 1880 and 1888 and was, he said, "the sole surviving palace of industry from any of the great world exhibitions".   ......And from UNESCO: Australia - Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. The Royal Exhibition Building and its surrounding Carlton Gardens were designed for the great international exhibitions of 1880 and 1888 in Melbourne. The building and grounds were designed by Joseph Reed. The building is constructed of brick and timber, steel and slate. It combines elements from the Byzantine, Romanesque, Lombardic and Italian Renaissance styles. The property is typical of the international exhibition movement which saw over 50 exhibitions staged between 1851 and 1915 in venues including Paris, New York, Vienna, Calcutta, Kingston (Jamaica) and Santiago (Chile). All shared a common theme and aims: to chart material and moral progress through displays of industry from all nations.    

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Before the REB, there was….

Melbourne's first Exhibition Building

 

This ornate, glass-roofed construction was Melbourne's first Exhibition Building.

It was designed and erected by Messrs Merrett, architects and civil engineers, on the site of the Old Mint on the corner of Little Lonsdale and William Streets in 1854.

Its purpose was to accomodate the first exhibition on the Australian continent, which was held from October to December 1854.

 

 

The second exhibition building was a wooden structure that was built behind the State Library, facing Russell Street.

The Royal Exhibition Building was the third Exhibition Building and The Melbourne Exhibition Centre (Jeff’s Shed) is the fourth, (pictured below).

 

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Mark Baljak's picture

wow!!!!

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I'll add a few internal images next month during the Beer Spectauclar, held inside REB.

http://www.facebook.com/gabsfestival

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A story about the former REB Oval

 

During the late 1930s the corrupt Labor financial supporter, John Wren felt his business interests Stadiums Limited, which had a monopoly on commercial boxing contests were being threatened by the REB trustees who were about to start staging boxing matches in the oval, so having found an old clause which stipulated that the oval in the Carlton Gardens was public land and people should not be charged an admission fee to enter, had his men in the Labor State Government stop the trustees from charging an admission fee to enter the oval.

 

This action spelt the end for the REB oval because the trustees could no longer maintain it if no funds could be raised to do so.

 

The oval site was then commandeered for military purposes during WW2 and in 1946 when the Air Force moved out, it had become a blighted weed infested area.

 

In 1948 huts were erected in the oval for a migrant reception centre that lasted until 1962.

 

In 1957 with the change of State Government, legislation was passed to allow the REB trustees to expand the REB into part of the old oval with new buildings and be allowed to charge people entry as well.

 

The remaining land that the oval was on became a carpark with a couple of smaller buildings erected on it over time as well.

 

The new Museum Victoria was built there in 2000.

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Five more recent shots of mine.

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Observation deck to be restored and reopened to the public:

https://au.news.yahoo.com/vic/video/watch/26868336/royal-exhibition-buil...

My only concern is how people will access the deck, will we get a very obtrusive lift to take them there?

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http://museumvictoria.com.au/reb/about-us/reb-protection-and-promotion-p...

Royal Exhibition Building Protection and Promotion Project

Museum Victoria received a Federal Government grant of $20 million for the protection and promotion of the National and World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building. The project will deliver a new multilevel visitor experience that reintroduces access to areas off limits for over a century, including the 360 degree Dome Promenade view across Carlton Gardens, Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, and an underground entry point through the building’s basement.

Key benefits

• Completing priority restoration works to protect the National and World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building for current and future generations.

• Enhancing the building’s position as an iconic Melbourne landmark of national and international significance.

• Restoring access to the building’s Dome Promenade and providing a new multilevel visitor experience.

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The French sculpture exhibits and original fountain in the eastern forecourt, between 1 October 1880 and 30 April 1881. Although it is unclear when the fountain was removed, photographs showing the eastern forecourt in the early twentieth century already reveal that the fountain had been replaced by the current design, manufactured by Antoine Durenne.

http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/1563151

http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/1563136

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From an elevated vantage point on Nicholson Street looking south-westwards towards the Royal Exhibition Building and Centennial Hall, venue for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held between 30 September and 7 October 1981.

http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/1701810

Looking at the south-eastern corner of Centennial Hall, capturing two reflected views in the building's glass facade; the southern wall reflecting the original Great Hall of the Royal Exhibition Building, while the eastern wall reflects the various flags of nations represented at the 1981 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the buildings on the opposite of Nicholson Street, including St. Mary Immaculate Church.

http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/1701818

Photograph of the landscaping of the Centennial Gardens taken from the eastern side of Centennial Hall looking south-east to the Grollo Fountain, and Royal Terrace and the corner of Nicholson Street and Gertrude Street in the background, in January 1981. The Grollo Fountain was presented by the well-known Melbourne construction company of Luigi Grollo & Sons in 1980 to commemorate the centenary of the Exhibition Buildings. It was designed by Mobelt, Digregorio & Associates, recyled 25,000 litres of water per minute and cost $500,000.

http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/1701598

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'Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth', Exhibition Building, 9 May 1901.

http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/2005107

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Main Exhibition Building from the corner of Spring and Victoria Street, Carlton, 1880-1881.

http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/1701882

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Development & Planning

Monday, December 11, 2017 - 12:00
Brunswick's Anstey Precinct is in for a massive shot of development as Melbourne's Nightingale Housing plans seven separate buildings in a project that will be dubbed Nightingale Village. Already accustomed to urban renewal, the area surrounding Anstey Station is set to benefit from the unprecedented move by Nightingale Housing to develop what amounts to an entire street.

Policy, Culture & Opinion

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 12:00
The marriage of old and new can be a difficult process, particularly when the existing structure has intrinsic heritage value. In previous times Fitzroy's 237 Napier Street served as the home of furniture manufacturer C.F. Rojo and Sons. Taking root during 1887, Christobel Rojo oversaw operations though over time the site would become home to furniture manufacturer Thonet.

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Visual Melbourne

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 07:00
The former site of John Batman's home, Batman's Hill is entering the final stages of its redevelopment. Collins Square's final tower has begun its skyward ascent, as has Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter Commercial and Residential precinct already. Melbourne Quarter's first stage is at construction and involves a new 12-storey home for consultancy firm Arup along with a skypark.

Transport & Design

Saturday, December 9, 2017 - 00:00
Spring Street has released details of a large shutdown of the Pakenham/Cranbourne and Frankston lines which will allow workers to complete major upgrades to the rail infrastructure. The work is required to allow for the introduction of the new High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMTs) and will involve upgrading power & catenary, signalling and communications equipment in the Dandenong (Pakenham/Cranbourne) corridor.

Sustainability & Environment

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:00
Cbus Property's office development for Medibank at 720 Bourke Street in Docklands recently became the first Australian existing property to receive a WELL Certification, Gold Shell and Core rating. The WELL rating goes beyond sustainable building features with a greater focus on the health and well-being of a building's occupants.