Melbourne is a city of many splendid buildings, and one of its iconic buildings is what is known as the Royal Exhibition Building today, but was was once a Great Hall built in Melbourne to house a 19th-century international exhibition. It is still used for exhibitions to this day. The Architect Joseph Reed had a grand design vision which was influenced by Rundbogenstil, a round-arched architectural style that combined elements from Byzantine, Romanesque, Lombardic and Italian Renaissance buildings. The beautiful dome design was inspired by Brunelleschi’s 15th-century cathedral in Florence. The building is a fine example of highly decorative moulding work.
Can you imagine, the Great Hall was once the largest building in Australia, and the highest building in Melbourne? It is constructed of brick, set on a bluestone base, and has long central naves and stunted transepts, with four triumphal entrance porticoes, one on each side. There was once a viewing platform around the dome, so visitors could survey the progress of the booming city. In 1880 the main exhibition hall had two brick annexes to its east and west and also a series of temporary halls of timber and corrugated iron. The temporary halls were dismantled at the end of the exhibitions. During the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition the brick annexes were used as machinery halls.
In 1901, the western annexe was converted to accommodate the Parliament of Victoria, which moved from the State Parliament Building to make way for the newly formed Federal Parliament. Thousands of people watched the royal procession as the Duke and Duchess of York made their way through the streets of the city to the Exhibition Building, where a ceremony was held to open the new Federal Parliament. Immediately following this ceremony the new members of Parliament made their way to Parliament House in Spring Street to begin proceedings. The western annexe was demolished in the 1960s, following the return of the Victorian Parliament to Parliament House in 1927. The eastern annexe had been partly demolished in the 1950s, and was replaced by the Convention Centre in 1979, which then became the Melbourne Museum in the 1990s.