Royal Exhibition Building - Promenade | Lovell Chen

Royal Exhibition Building - Promenade | Lovell Chen | Photographer: John Gollings

2023 National Architecture Awards Program

Royal Exhibition Building - Promenade | Lovell Chen

Traditional Land Owners


HBS Group Pty Ltd
John Gollings
Lovell Chen
Project summary

Conservation decision-making for the ongoing Royal Exhibition Building (REB) programme is an enormous challenge: we are working on a kind of evolutionary conservation.

The latest project — to reinstate the 360-degree roof Promenade Deck and undertake conservation works to the South Facade and Drum dome — reflects this. In the last 35 years, as a heritage place the REB has progressed from state registration to national listing to UNESCO World Heritage status.

Each represents differing approaches to conservation. The primary heritage focus was conservation of the fabric as constructed in 1880 or as had evolved by 1900, which includes reinstatement of the public viewing decks and lift access.

This is one of the finest and largest nineteenth century buildings in Australia, and the only international survivor of a Great Hall from a major industrial exhibition of the period.

Victorian Architecture Awards Accolades
Award for Heritage
Shortlist – Heritage
Victorian Jury Citation

Visitors to the Royal Exhibition Building (REB) can enjoy spectacular elevated views from the UNESCO World Heritage Building for the first time in 100 years, thanks to Lovell Chen’s recent restoration efforts. Designed by Joseph Reed for the 1880 and 1888 international exhibitions, the REB is a magnificent Victorian landmark. The main building is the only international survivor of a Great Hall from a major industrial exhibition of the period.

Lovell Chen, renowned for their ongoing restoration work on the REB, recently reinstated the 360-degree roof promenade deck and conducted conservation works on the south facade and drum dome.

Many structural and conservation challenges were met along the way. A cupola was remarkably removed in one piece to install a new lift and steel stair in the west pavilion, where the original lift had been, and Lovell Chen made the bold decision to significantly increase the size of the original promenade to ensure its future viability.

It is a great responsibility to work on a UNESCO World Heritage Building, but Lovell Chen’s skill and deep understanding of the building has led to a thoughtful response that will no doubt be enjoyed by many future visitors to the Royal Exhibition Building.

Victorian Jury Presentation

This project has laid the foundations for a dual use model for the Royal Exhibition Building by creating separate spaces for heritage visitors and education audiences, while allowing the main Great Hall to continue to be used for commercial events. While essential heritage conservation works have extended the life of the building.

Reopening the Dome Promenade provides a tangible link between the World Heritage values of the site and contemporary visitors by inviting them to experience a key attraction from Melbourne’s international exhibitions. While the new basement gallery space offers opportunities for learning about the history of the site.

Project Practice Team

Anita Brady, Senior Heritage Consultant
Anne-Marie Treweeke, Project Architect
Dan Blake, Architect
Harry Jess, Architect
Iulia Vrancianu Danila, Architect
Kai Chen, Design Architect and Design Director
Maxwell Bracher, Architect
Milica Tumbas, Project Principal
Natasa Vuletas, Documentation
Peter Lovell, Director, Principal Heritage
Stuart Hanafin, Architect

Project Consultant and Construction Team

Arup, Electrical Consultant, Mechanical Engineer, Hydraulic Consultant, ESD Consultant, Lighting Consultant
du Chateau Chun, Building Surveyor, DDA Access
Lovell Chen, Heritage Consultant
Marshall Day Acoustics, Acoustic Consultant
Ontoit, Project Manager (design)
Plancost Australia, Quantity Surveyor
WSP, Structural Engineer, Civil Consultant, Fire Engineer

Connect with Lovell Chen
Royal Exhibition Building - Promenade | Lovell Chen | Photographer: John Gollings

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