When I first moved to Melbourne a little over a year ago, I was out taking a long walk around the city, discovering new places in my new home when I stumbled across Carlton Gardens and the ever so gracious Royal Exhibition Building. Ever since it has been one of my favorite places for photography, and also every time I shoot here – include one or two photos of it with both my Diana Mini and Lomo LC-A, I can’t see myself falling out of love with it anytime soon.
The Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were completed in 1880 for Melbourne’s first international exhibition, a product of the optimism, enthusiasm and energy of the people of Melbourne in the late-19th century. Melbourne was a prosperous city, basking in the wealth from the richest gold rush in the world. How better to publicise the achievements and opportunities in the colony of Victoria than by hosting an international exhibition?
Today, the Royal Exhibition Building flourishes as one of the world’s oldest exhibition pavilions, symbolising the great 19th-century international exhibition movement.
The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were inscribed on the World Heritage list on 1 July 2004, becoming the first building in Australia to achieve World Heritage listing. Today, the Royal Exhibition Building is a campus of Museum Victoria and the gardens are managed by the City of Melbourne.
Joseph Reed, of the firm Reed and Barnes, was the architect. Reed’s was a grand design, influenced by Rundbogenstil, a round-arched architectural style combining elements from Byzantine, Romanesque, Lombardic and Italian Renaissance buildings. The dome’s design was influenced by Brunelleschi’s 15th-century cathedral in Florence.
The aesthetic significance of the Carlton Gardens lies in its embodiment of the 19th-century Gardenesque style. This includes parterre (formal or symmetrically-placed) garden beds, significant avenues such as the southern carriage drive and Grand Allée, the path system, specimen and clusters of trees, two small lakes and three fountains.