Royal Exhibition Building Dome
Question: Is it possible to walk around the interior of the Royal Exhibition Building dome?
Answer: In 2012 it is not possible but according to news reports (below) visitors will again be able to promenade on the rooftop of the historic building and take in the city's changing skyline.
In the 1880s visitors were able to access the exterior of the dome from a promenade deck. Located 30 metres above the gallery level, visitors to the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition paid 3 pence to climb 80 steep steps to access the promenade. There they could oversee the fast-paced development of Melbourne first-hand.
One visitor described the experience: At one's feet lies the city, with its well-planned and equally well-executed streets, its commendable buildings, its domes, its churches and its towers. Then the suburbs, green almost as the country beyond and the waters of Port Phillip... The sight was grand enough to be subduing... and as we filed down the apparently endless stairs it was to the tune of silence.
Access to the promenade was improved in 1888 when Waygood & Company installed a lift to the dome as a working exhibit at the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition. This improvement increased the popularity of the experience, so prices were increased to sixpence for adults and threepence for children.
Tours of the interior of the Royal Exhibition Building are held most days at 2pm, subject to availability. Please call 13 11 02 to confirm.
Rooftop walk plans
A funding boost for Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building means visitors will again be able to promenade on the rooftop of the historic building and take in the city's changing skyline.
The $20 million injection, set aside in the federal budget, means Museum Victoria can now start planning to re-open the "roam the Dome" roof-top viewing area, which was open to visitors in the early 1900s so they could gaze over "Marvellous Melbourne" (for threepence a visit), but later closed.
In the heady days of Melbourne's first boom, visitors paid thruppence to climb 80 steep steps - men sweating in woollen waistcoats and women in long skirts- to promenade before the best views in the city, from the dome of the Royal Exhibition Building.
One visitor in the 1880s wrote: '' At one's feet lay the city, with its well-planned and equally well-executed streets. . . then the suburbs, green almost as the country beyond and the waters of Port Phillip.''
Nowa $20 million funding boost means visitors will again be able to stand on the rooftop of this remarkable building and take in the city's much-changed skyline. Museum Victoria wants to use the money, allocated in this year's federal budget, to maintain the building and to reopen the rooftop viewing area.
It also plans to extend a tunnel from the museum- dug in 2000 when its visitor car park was built - underneath the Exhibition Building. The tunnel would host a permanent exhibition about the building's history and connect with a lift inside that would whisk visitors up to the first floor, which could be used for displays on democracy in Australia, and upwards to the roof.
The Royal Exhibition Building is exceptional by any measure - it hosted the first Federal Parliament in 1901, was the first building to fly the Australian flag, and in 2004 it was the first Australian building added to the World Heritage list (Sydney's Opera House followed in 2007).
Built to host the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and promote the country's technological prowess to the world, it was also used as an emergency hospital for victims of the so-called Spanish influenza in 1919. Museum Victoria director Patrick Greene said he considered it to be the '' largest object in the museum's collection'' .
'' It's truly a people's palace, a place where you could ascend to the dome and look down on Marvellous Melbourne,'' he said.
But a large heritage building comes with a considerable maintenance bill; the polished spotted gum floor alone has taken four years to replace.
The push to re-open the dome has been a pet project of Melbourne MP Adam Bandt, who said few people knew it was the birthplace of the Australian nation (and admitted he may have attended an all-night dance party there in his youth).
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been a supporter of the proposal to reinvigorate the building , and Mr Bandt liaised with her office for months to negotiate budget money, he said.
Environment Minister Tony Burke, who is responsible for heritage, said there were many worthy heritage buildings, but the Royal Exhibition Building hada unique social and political history. '' Nowhere else can tell the story that can be told here,'' he said.
❊Venue | Location ❊
Royal Exhibition Building [show]
⊜ 9 Nicholson Street Carlton | Map
✆ 13 11 02 | +61 3 9270 5000
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→ Source: The Age
→ YOUR SAY: Plans to turn Royal Exhibition Building dome into tourist attraction
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