The Royal Exhibition Building has been around for almost 140 years. Just take that in. One hundred and forty years! Sure, smaller sections of the building were demolished and ravaged by fire, but the main building, known as the Great Hall, has survived all these years. So it's high time this grand dame got a makeover.
A renovation currently underway includes southern façade conservation works, conservation repairs to the dome, cupola and drum, as well as the restoration of the 1880s Dome Promenade, a platform set up around the central dome that you can walk around. Just think of the views!
The Australian government has given Museums Victoria a $20 million capital works project for the conservation of the building. Architects Lovell Chen and heritage builders HBS Group have already started on conservation works. They will also work on the building’s basement, which will include a new public entry, as well as the installation of a lift, which will sit in the same location as the one installed for the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition.
The hope is to set up daily access to the building which is often restricted to select events throughout the year, including the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, the Dog Lovers Show and the Finders Keepers Market.
The Royal Exhibition Building was designed by Joseph Reed (who also did the Melbourne Town Hall and the State Library of Victoria) and was completed in 1880. It’s one of the world’s oldest remaining exhibition pavilions and was built to host the first official World’s Fair in the Southern Hemisphere. Not only is the building impressive from the outside, the ornate decor of the Great Hall needs to be seen up close. Fun fact: the Royal Exhibition Building was the first building in the country to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status (take that, Sydney Opera House!).
The redevelopment is expected to be completed in early 2020.