Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pictures at an Exhibition

It was an unusually beautiful morning, the ground wet and cool, the sun shining. My neice is going overseas, and today my family had a lunch to launch her. On my way to my sister's inner-city warehouse space, I decided to stop and wander in the grounds of the Royal Exhibition Building and its surrounding Carlton Gardens. Above, the building's wonderful cupola.
"Completed in 1880 for Melbourne's first international exhibition", this impressively massive building was the first in Australia to achieve world heritage listing. Above, some of its very green and leafy grounds. 
Adjacent to the Central Business District, these broad, orderly and geometrically-alligned gardens have a typically Victorian sense of scale.
Nonetheless, a new branch of the Melbourne Museum has been constructed in its grounds. Above, see part of its wonderfully eye-catching, out of kilter annexe, seeming to sink, as it does, into the ground.
Designed by the multi-award-winning Denton Corker Marshall, like many 21st century buildings, it is striking, and relies for its impact on the conservative or natural background in which it resides.  
Much of the planting around the original building is in the traditional Victorian 'bedding out' style. I'm not normally fond of it, but I tip-toed my way through, and understand how easily such a format or approach lends the viewer a sense of propriety, a sense of surveyance.
There are several fountains on site, including this, above, 'The Exhibition Fountain', designed by Josef Hochgurtel in 1880.
Papyrus, of course, were a Victorian favourite...and water, so rewarding.
The scale is monumental, but Melbourne then was the richest city in the world.
The image above gives you a sense of scale.
It was through these doors that I went for  my final school examinations...impending doom or great promise?
Fortunately, and despite the very Englishness of it all, a number of magnificent native Eucalypts thrive, more ancient than the theatre imposed around them.
See our strong light and the clarity of our blue, blue skies.
One of many fine views, above, on the corner of Rathdowne and Pelham Streets, is this, the Corpus Christi College.
And here, above, the resident gardener's cottage, on the corner of Rathdowne and Carlton Streets. Melbourne's history, however knocked about or dismantled it may have been, is its linchpin.
We do not though, stop, it seems, here, in the Southern Hemisphere. See another section of the new Melbourne Museum, above, bold and brave, with its delectably crooked windows..
My favourite human intervention is this, this statue commemorating the reign if Queen Victoria, with its pair of blonde kangaroos.
Beneath the pair, above, this wonderful plaque of an emu, an exception, surely,  to Victorian discipline, yet a prime example of all the Victorians sought to discover.
The day has been so glorious. I was lucky to have had plenty of time to wander through the gardens, and to make my way to my sister's. 
Her home has this unconventional rooftop sitting space, with views across to all sorts of semi-industrial, reclaimed architecture, bits of roof, stretches of sky.
Here she is, Belinda, on the left, having given us a wonderful lunch of all sorts, with kipfler potatoes and shallots, chicken, broad-beans with leeks, pizza, a most glamorous profiterole thing, and Brillat Savarin and blue Saint Agur cheeses, with an amazing hand-made Limoncello from Adelaide, among other things. My gorgeous neice, Georgia, is in the middle, and my lovely mother is on the right. My brother-in-law, Steve, was off on the side, keeping us entertained.
And that's not all. Here, above, is my gentleman nephew, Lachlan, a most charming and good-natured man.
Good, eh? How often do you get to have a day to explore an inspirational garden and connect with family, and be treated with kid gloves?


  1. through this wonderful history lesson, above all those wonderful pictures, your marvelous writing, your gorgeous family and your smiling eyes please tell me why do i get stuck only in those three words :
    glamorous profiterole thing

    they stole my heart ; )

  2. Demie, you're a doll. I wish I'd taken a photo of the 'glamorous profiterole thing'.
    My family all loves food - and there is nothing wrong with a sweet tooth.
    We're so lucky in Australia, having people living here from all over the world - especially in Melbourne - you can find anything.
    Chocolate and cream - what's better, huh?

  3. what a wonderfully enjoyable post this is Faisal. I also sat my final school exams in that building, with birds calling and flying overhead, and wondering whether you would be shat upon. My other thought about the Exhibition Gardens and Buildings is how for several years it was the site of the large annual Garden and Flower Show. It worked but there were many complaints it damaged the gardens so it was moved elsewhere. My other thought is that I have never been into that museum despite meaning to for years. And I never knew that there was a time when Melb was the richest city in the world. Your family seem lovely and there is a real family resemblance between you and Lachlan. cheers, catmint

  4. Hi Catmint. I've never been into the Museum either, a not unusual thing for me, who frequently misses everything of any importance.
    'Marvellous Melbourne' is what we were called, in the late 19th century - all the gold made us richer than London.
    Lachlan is such a nice man, I'm so happy there's a resemblance in me to him.
    X, Faisal.

  5. Hello Faisal:
    How we have enjoyed your wonderful tour of the Royal Exhibition buildings and the Carlton Gardens. Victorian splendour indeed, such drama and bravura, giving such a spirited confidence to the whole area. We rather like the 'Victorian' massed plantings with their garish colours,offset by the acres of green and the most magnificent of mature trees. Added to which, the contemporary museum buildings give an extra frisson! Perfect.

    And how lovely to be introduced to your family through the photographs. Clearly a jolly time was enjoyed by all, making this we are sure the most perfect of days. Good luck to your niece!!

  6. Faisal...

    A lovely tour. The the trunks and branches of the eucalyptus trees are absolutely magnificent. Love the texture and movement. It sounds like the most marvelous of days. To walk about the beautiful grounds among fountains and statuary and then end the day up on the roof with family, good food and blue skies. Oh... is the gardeners cottage available? I'm most certain I could relocate....

  7. Hello Jane and Lance,
    I have to say I was spellbound by the Victorian design - the care taken, and a certain triumphalism, even the painstaking orderliness are a reprieve from today's 'anything goes' styles.
    It was just one of those lovely days where everything fell into place in a positive way. I thank you sincerely for your good wishes!

  8. Oh, Bonnie...a gardener's cottage, like that - a dream. If it ever becomes vacant, I'll toss you for it!
    I adore Eucalypts - their lack of regularity being a big part of the appeal.
    Wishing you a happy week,

  9. What beautiful pictures! The trees were absolutely lovely :)

  10. Seems you had a smashing day, Faisal. I'm pleased. Your Oz eucalypts put mine to shame - chuckle. But give me time.... a 100 years should do it.

    Not sure about the Rubik's cube. Perhaps I could grow to like it. I do like the "delectably crooked windows."

  11. Hello Michelle, and welcome! Thankyou. Trees have always been inspirational 'friends' to me.

  12. Hi Dave,
    Given that you in England can grow almost anything lushly, it's fair enough we with thin soils, drought and blazing light can do at least ONE species better! Such spirit they have.
    The cube of many colours looks much better in situ than my photos were able to convey, though I did notice they're already showing signs of age, something it may not carry off so well as a Victorian!

  13. the answer to your last question is 'surely not very often'.

    What a fantastic place Melbourne is, I had no idea!

  14. Too true, Friko...we could all do with it more often!
    We are regularly listed among the top 'most liveable cities in the world', even though we've become a vast metropolis.