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World Heritage

Royal Exhibition Building

Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

Inscribed 2004

The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne, were inscribed on the World Heritage List at the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Suzhou, China in July 2004.

The Royal Exhibition Building was built in Melbourne's Carlton Gardens in 1880 for the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. It subsequently hosted Melbourne's second international exhibition, the 1888 Centennial International Exhibition. It is one of the great enduring monuments to the International Exhibition movement, which began in the mid-nineteenth century.

International exhibitions were staged around the world to demonstrate the confidence and achievements of the industrial age. They provided a mechanism for the worldwide exchange of goods, technology, ideas, culture and values, and heralded a new era of trading networks and the modern international economy. The exhibitions were a spectacular shop front for the industrial revolution, which shaped some of the greatest global social and economic transformations.

Royal Exhibition Building at night

Around 1.5 million people visited the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition (including repeat visitors). The number that visited the 1888 Centennial Exhibition grew to 2.2 million, amounting to about 69 per cent of the population of the Australian colonies.

During the 1880 and 1888 international exhibitions, the South Garden was the site for the "pleasure garden" that contained exhibits. The South Garden continues to be used for parkland and exhibition purposes. The North Garden was used to house temporary exhibition pavilions during the two international exhibitions. It was re-landscaped as parkland and now also houses the Melbourne Museum. Typically, international exhibition buildings were set within such landscaped areas.

The scale and grandeur of the building reflects the values and aspirations attached to industrialisation and its international face. The Building boasts many of the important features that made the exhibitions so dramatic and effective, including a dome, a great hall, giant entry portals, versatile display areas, axial planning and complementary gardens and viewing areas.

Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal Exhibition Building was purpose-designed to be the Great Hall or "Palace of Industry", the focal point of international exhibitions. Unlike many international exhibitions, Melbourne's Exhibition Building was conceived as a permanent structure that would have a future role in the cultural activities of the growing city of Melbourne.

Despite the great impact of the international exhibition movement worldwide and the impressive nature of the many buildings designed and built to hold these exhibitions, few remain. Even fewer retain their authenticity in terms of original location and condition. The Royal Exhibition Building, in its original setting of the Carlton Gardens, is one of the rare survivors.

It has added rarity as the only substantially intact example in the world of a Great Hall from a major international exhibition.

Outstanding Universal Values of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Melbourne were inscribed on the World Heritage List against the cultural criterion listed below:

Cultural criterion (ii): exhibit an important interchange of human values over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design.

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