No, not the dishy princes or some handsome European (although applications for enamourment are accepted) instead our very own Royal Exhibition Building. Of all the buildings I love in Melbourne – and there’s a lot which I shan’t bore you with just now (but you know its all coming right?) this is my favorite.
One look at this stunning building will begin to tell you of my love (i am just as likely to swoon over a beautiful blue stone as a gorgeous guy) and I became further enamored when I read that on top of hosting the Great Exhibition, parliament, Olympic events, balls and exhibitions galore it also was the Melbourne Aquarium!!!
Given all of this, It may surprise you that despite having loved this building for years and having spent hours upon hours in the surrounding gardens, I had never been inside before Sunday. It was therefore first on my hit list as part of the Melbourne Open House Day program. After recovering from “The Kookaburra Incident” Bean, Dino and I entered the great open space and stopped. It is beautiful and grand and filled with elegant ghosts (not the scary sort) of yesteryear. The place glowed with the sunshine and polished wood floors and ceilings that reached for the skies. It exceeded my expectations and as a bit of a dreamer my expectations too often exceed reality.
We noted a cute cafe space on one side wishing we had realized we had been able to coffee onsite and moved down the Northern wing noting the people selling the cute souvenirs (old mini tram or mini REB model anyone?) and absorbed the magic that having this place empty allowed. To the horror of Bean, Dino and I waltzed for a moment because it feels like that is what this place was made for. I will be honest that my waltzing abilities are lacking but it was still kind of fun – thanks year 9 dance classes!
The floor in all the building excluding the Western Wing is stunning and shows what beautiful flooring can do. The western wing felt lesser for it’s slightly cheaper floor – not sure why but if anyone has any insights I am curious.
Upstairs, past the sheerly dressed paintings (poor women – it’s cold in there) we headed to a mini cinema and watched a short doco on the building.
Most of it was about the garden re-design but I wish it had been more about the history. We walked further around the second floor and found a small display and finally more information on the aquarium. I am a bit obsessed. Sadly it was bad news, while I knew it had burnt down I hadn’t realized how few fish had made it out.
The building seems to have had a history of fires, ugly extensions and multiple uses. I love where it’s at now and hope that with it’s Heritage listing (first in Australia!) that it avoids the pitfalls and has another hundred years ahead of it.
They do tours and perhaps one day I will manage to make one. In the meantime for more factual info on this building i recommend the the Melbourne Encyclopedia