undertaken in 1999-2001 to repair rendered facades, windows, doors, the east roof and exterior painting. All work has been undertaken in accordance with the ICOMOS Australia Burra Charter.
No conservation history for the gardens was detailed in the nomination dossier.
State of conservation:
Major restoration works that have been undertaken over a number of years have left the Royal Exhibition Building an excellent state of conservation and repair.
Overall the gardens appear to be well maintained. The draft conservation plan states that the tree canopy in the gardens is in fair to good condition and mentions that shrubberies are overgrown or degraded and require attention.
Two separate management plans have been produced for the site, one for the Royal Exhibition Building and a second (a conservation management plan still in draft) for the Carlton Gardens. A Master Plan is being developed for the gardens due for completion at the end of 2003. This will encompass the conservation management plan. Both plans have been informed by the principles of the Burra Charter.
Allied to the production of the garden plan is a debate on the future form of parts of the garden, given the impact of global warming and the need to consider ‘water-wise’ landscaping in the southern hemisphere. At the time of submission, no definite conclusion had been reached on the questions of planting or replacement of trees in the gardens, and, in particular, whether certain exotic plants should be replaced with local alternatives.
The separate plans reflect their different management authorities for the Royal Exhibition Building and the Carlton Gardens. The Melbourne Museum is responsible for the exhibition building and the Parks and Recreation section of the City of Melbourne for the gardens.
Although it is understood that there is a good informal working relationship between the two institutions, it would be preferable if there was could be one overall integrated management authority comprising representatives from both institutions. Such a body could develop long term sustainable management practices for both the buildings and the gardens together. From discussions during the mission there seemed to be acceptance of this in principle.
Risk analysis: The following are put forward in the nomination:
It is stated that there are no major development pressures within the gardens as the whole area cannot be sold without an Act of Parliament. However one significant development has already taken place in the building of the new Melbourne Museum, which covers more than half the north garden.
It is stated that poor air borne pollution is not a problem for the building structures and plants.
The greatest risk is perceived to be fire as a substantial part of the building is timber. To minimise this risk a full sprinkler system has been installed and a direct connection made to the fire brigade.
Although the new Melbourne Museum attracts over 800,000 visitors a year, this number is not considered detrimental to the Royal Exhibition Building or the gardens. The greatest pressure on the gardens comes for the annual flower show – it is stated that damage from this is repaired immediately.
Authenticity and integrity Authenticity:
One of the key issues connected with this site is the issue of authenticity. The site is being put forward as an exemplar site, one that represents the great exhibition movement. It is not suggested that the Royal Exhibition Building is the best Great Exhibition Hall built during the 50 years or so during which great exhibitions were in vogue, rather it is suggested that the Royal Exhibition Building is a representative of the genre, one of the few great halls to survive, the only one left built to display industry, and the only one to have remained in use as a hall, still connected to its surrounding land.
In terms of authenticity consideration needs to be given to the ensemble of hall (used to display industry), decorated interior and surrounding park.
The Royal Exhibition Building has survived relatively unchanged in it fabric, Two small wings were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s. What has been lost – or covered up – is the interior decoration connected to the great exhibition period. It is understood that much of the second scheme does survive, albeit over-painted. However the decision was taken to restore the third scheme, which was unrelated to the great exhibition movement, but associated with the opening of the first Australian Parliament, an event of great national significance. What has also been lost from the interior is the Great Organ housed in one of the wings and the high level walkways, although there is a proposal to re-construct these.
In the grounds, it is not possible to say that what is there now is a complete reflection of the decorative scheme from the great exhibition period. Much detail has been lost (such as the cast iron fencing), some features have not survived (such as the parterres to the south) and perhaps most significantly a large part of the north garden has been covered by the new Melbourne Museum. This large new building, prominently sited facing the rear of the Royal Exhibition Building is one of the problematic aspects of this nomination.
The new building is on the site of the temporary exhibitions buildings. These were not designed to last beyond the exhibitions, whereas the main hall was seen as a permanent structure. It was however the intention – carried out – that as soon as the temporary buildings were removed the space would be landscaped as a setting for the permanent structure.