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The Royal Exhibition Building is a World Heritage Site-listed building in Melbournemarker, Australia, completed in 1880. It is located in the Carlton Gardensmarker, at the north-eastern edge of the central business districtmarker. It was built to host the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880 and later hosted the opening of the first Parliament of Australia in 1901. Throughout the 20th century smaller sections and wings of the building were subject to demolition and fire, however the main building survived.

It received restoration throughout the 1990s and in 2004 became the first building in Australia to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, being one of the last remaining major nineteenth-century exhibition buildings in the world. It sits adjacent to the Melbourne Museum and is the largest item in Museum Victoria's collection. Today, the building hosts various small exhibitions and other events and is closely tied with events at the Melbourne Museum.


The Royal Exhibition Building was designed by the architect Joseph Reed, who also designed the Melbourne Town Hall and the State Library of Victoriamarker. According to Reid, the eclectic design was inspired by many sources. The dome was modeled on the Florence Cathedralmarker, while the main pavilions were influenced by the style of Rundbogenstil and several buildings from Normandy, Caen and Paris.

The foundation stone was laid by Victorian governor George Bowen on 19 February, 1879 and it was completed in 1880, ready for the Melbourne International Exhibition. The building consisted of a Great Hall of over 12,000 square metres and many temporary annexes.


In the 1880s the building hosted two major International Exhibitions; The Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880 and the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition in 1888 to celebrate a century of European settlement in Australia. The most significant event to occur in the Exhibition Building was the opening of the first Parliament of Australia on 9 May 1901, following the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January. After the official opening, the federal government moved to the Victorian State Parliament Housemarker, while the Victorian government moved to the Exhibition Building for the next 26 years.


The period after this time saw the building used for many purposes.It was a main venue for the 1956 Summer Olympics, hosting the basketball, weightlifting and wrestling competitions.As it decayed, it became known derogatively by locals as the The White Elephant in the 1940s and by the 1950s, like many buildings in Melbourne of that time it was earmarked for replacement by office blocks. In 1948, members of the Melbourne City Council put this to the vote and it was narrowly decided not to demolish the building. The wing of the building which once housed Melbourne's aquarium burnt down in 1953. The grand ballroom was demolished in 1979, leaving the main structure in place along with annexes constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. Following the demolition of the grand ballroom there was a public outcry, which prevented the main building also from being demolished.


In 1984 when Queen Elizabeth II visited Victoria she granted the prefix title 'Royal' to the Exhibition Building. This sparked a restoration of the interiors of the building in late 1985, and the construction of a mirror glass annexe (which was later demolished). In 1996 the then Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, proposed the location and construction of Melbourne's State Museum on the adjacent site. Temporary annexes built in the 1960s were removed and in 1997 and 1998, the exterior of the building was progressively restored.

The location of the State Museum close to the Exhibition Building site was strongly opposed by the Victorian State Labor Party, the Melbourne City Councilmarker and the local community. It was as a result of the community campaign opposing the museum development that John Brumby, then State opposition leader, with the support of the Melbourne City Council, proposed the nomination of the Royal Exhibition Buildings for world heritage listing. The world heritage nomination did not progress until the election of the Victorian State Labor Party as the new government in 1999.
The main hall inside the building

In 2004, the Royal Exhibition Building along with the surrounding Carlton Gardens was granted listing as a World Heritage Site, the first building in Australia to be granted this status. The heritage listing states that The Royal Exhibition Building is the only major extant nineteenth century exhibition building in Australia. It is one of the few major nineteenth century exhibition buildings to survive worldwide.

Current use

This building is still in use as an exhibition centre for various events on a regular basis such as the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. It is mostly used for private tours attached to the nearby Melbourne Museum.

The Royal Exhibition Building is also used as an exam hall for the University of Melbournemarker, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technologymarker, Melbourne High Schoolmarker and Mac.Robertson Girls' High Schoolmarker

However, it is no longer Melbourne's largest or busiest exhibition centre. The modern alternative to the Exhibition Building is the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centremarker, located in Southbankmarker to the south of the central city area.

See also


  1. The Age
  2. The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne
  3. " The Royal Exhibition Building" URL accessed on 6 November 2007.
  4. " Who will save Melbourne from the wrecker's ball?" 15 March 2004. URL accessed on 5 September 2006.
  5. Museum Victoria
  6. "Global status for our greatest building", 21 October 2002. URL accessed on 5 September 2006.

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