Major project to develop sustainable garden for Royal Exhibition Building

Melbourne, Australia October 20 (Inquisitr Wire): Museum Victoria is undertaking a major project to transform an unsightly car park at the Royal Exhibition Building, Australia’s first World Heritage listed building, into heritage gardens based on the original nineteenth century design.

The project will restore the western forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building, which was covered in asphalt in the 1950s. Funded by a $5.3 million grant from the Victorian Government, the project will begin in late October 2009 with completion in February 2011.

An important component of the project is the installation of an extensive water harvesting and storage system, including a 900,000 litre underground water tank, which will ensure a sustainable future for this much-loved Melbourne landmark.

“This project will enhance the Royal Exhibition Building – a unique architectural structure – as well as protect Victoria’s water reserves through an innovative water management system”, said The Hon Tony Robinson, Minister for Consumer Affairs.

Museum Victoria CEO, Dr Patrick Greene said that the project will complete the ‘palace gardens’ setting for the building by transforming a bleak area of tarmac into a grand forecourt that is in keeping with one of Australia’s most significant historic structures.

“In most great cities there is a building that epitomises its spirit and history. In Melbourne, it is undoubtedly the Royal Exhibition Building”, said Greene. “This important project will ensure a sustainable future for this magnificent landmark, and for the Carlton Gardens, preserving them for future generations.”

The project will be in three phases. Beginning in late October, the first phase will involve an archaeological exploration of the site to search for traces of historic garden beds and other original features, conducted in partnership with Godden Mackay Logan (GML) and La Trobe University. Soil, seeds and pollen will be analysed to identify the plants that might have been part of the nineteenth century garden design.

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Phase two will include the installation of two water tanks. One tank will store water captured from the extensive roof of the Royal Exhibition Building, and the second will capture surface water run-off from hardstand areas. This will provide a constant water source for the fountains, lakes and irrigation of the Carlton Gardens as well as irrigation for the site’s historic trees, flower beds and newly created palace garden.

In the third phase, archaeological and historical research will be used to restore the 1880 garden landscape and plantings to their original splendour.

Built in 1879 to host the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880, the Royal Exhibition Building was the first Australian building to be added to the World Heritage List and remains the only World Heritage structure in Victoria. As the nation’s most prestigious building, the Royal Exhibition Building was selected to host the opening of the first Australian Federal Parliament on May 9, 1901 and was the place where the Australian flag was flown for the first time. The building was added to the Australian Government’s National Heritage List in 2004.

Funding for this project was provided from the Victorian Property Fund on the approval of the Minister for Consumer Affairs.