Architecture Images- Central Business District
Queen Victoria Building
|block bound by George, Market York and Druitt Streets.|
|Federation Romanesque combination of American and Venetian Romanesque.|
|There have been markets on this
site since 1810. The Queen Victoria Markets replaced the old George Street
1898. They were designed for the Council by the City Architect, George McRae, and aspired to be the grand shopping arcade of Sydney rather than produce markets. The imposing Romanesque building was never successful as markets until it was refurbished in 1986.
|Nineteenth Century images- State Library of New South Wales|
The markets formerly on the site of the
Queen Victoria Building.
Taken from the top of Sydney Town Hall circa 1870. Source- http://www.mediavr.com/zoom/sydneyspherical.html (pan, zoom, very cool).
|Click images for larger versions|
|Following images with special thanks to Michael Greenhalgh.|
|Images- thanks to www.sydneymate.com|
The site, originally the first Sydney markets, was selected for the construction of a grand government building, intended to employ skilled craftsmen, out of work during a severe recession. Designed by architect George McRae, it was completed in 1898. First known as the George Street Market, the Queen Victoria Building was designed as a monument to the then long reigning monarch.
The building as completed included a concert hall, and coffee shops and showrooms shared the interior arcade with tradesmen such as tailors, mercers, hairdressers and florists. Over the years sometimes drastic changes were made, with the concert hall becoming the municipal library and Sydney City Council offices displacing many of the commercial tenants.
The building steadily deteriorated, and as recently as 1959 it was threatened with demolition. During the 1970s it was restored, and is now home to a wide variety of mostly upmarket boutiques and "brand-name" shops.
The dominant feature is the huge Centre Dome, consisting of an interior glass dome and a copper-sheathed exterior, topped by a domed cupola. Many smaller domes in a range of sizes dot the roofline, most notably a pair overtopping each end of the rectangular building.
Stained glass windows, including a cartwheel window depicting the ancient arms of the City of Sydney, admit light into the central area, and the roof itself incorporates arched skylights running lengthways north and south from the central dome. The intricate collonades, arches, balustrades and cupolas make the exterior a visual feast of Victorian fussiness.
Inside, the building consists of four main shopping floors, the top three pierced by voids protected by decorated cast-iron railings. Much of the tilework, especially under the central dome, is original, and the remainder is in keeping with this style. underground passageways lead off to Town Hall Station at the southern end, and to a food court at the north.
Two large mechanical clocks, each one featuring dioramas and moving figures, dominate the upper voids, and may be observed from the nearby railings. The Royal Clock, designed by Neil Glasser and made by Thwaites & Reed of Hastings in England, shows scenes of English royalty from King John signing the Magna Carta to the execution of King Charles I. The Great Australian Clock, designed and made by Chris Cook, weighs four tonnes and stands ten metres tall. It includes 33 scenes from Australian history seen from both Aboriginal and European perspectives. An Aboriginal hunter circles the exterior of the clock continuously, representing the neverending passage of time.
Amongst many memorials and historic displays, two large glass cases stand out. The first contains an Imperial Chinese Bridal Carriage made entirely of jade and weighing over two tonnes. It is the only example found outside China. The second is a lifesize figure of Queen Victoria on her Coronation Day in historical costume, and surrounded by the British Crown Jewels of the time. Her enthroned figure rotates slowly, fixing the onlooker with her serene and youthful gaze.
At the southern end of the building is the Bicentennial Plaza facing the Sydney Town Hall across Druitt Street. It is dominated by a statue of Queen Victoria standing on a light grey stone plinth, the work of Irish sculptor John Hughes. This statue stood outside the Irish Houses of Parliament in Leinster House, Dublin until 1947, and was given to the people of Sydney by the Government of the Republic of Ireland. It was placed in its present site in 1987.
Nearby stands a wishing well featuring a
bronze sculpture of Queen Victoria's favorite dog "Islay". A recorded
message voiced by
John Laws urges onlookers to give a donation and make a wish. The
tens of thousands of dollars cast into this well benefit deaf and blind
The Queen Victoria Building, now
affectionately known as the QVB, was designed by George McRae and
completed in 1898, replacing the original Sydney markets on the site.
Built as a monument to the long reigning monarch, construction took
place in dire times, as Sydney was in a severe recession. The elaborate
Romanesque architecture was specially planned for the grand building so
the Government could employ many out-of-work craftsmen – stonemasons,
plasterers, and stained window artists - in a worthwhile project.
Originally, a concert hall, coffee shops, offices, showrooms, warehouses
and a wide variety of tradespeople, such as tailors, mercers,
hairdressers and florists, were accommodated.
Over many decades, change saw the concert hall become the city library, offices proliferate and more tenants move in, including piano tuners, palmists and clairvoyants. Drastic 'remodelling' occurred during the austere 1930s and the main occupant was the Sydney City Council. As recently as 1959 the Queen Victoria Building was threatened with demolition. As it stands now, in all its glory. It is testimony to the original vision for the building and the superb craftsmanship of the artisans who put it all back together again.
The QVB fills an entire city block bound by
George, Market, York and Druitt Streets. The dominant feature is the
mighty centre dome, consisting of an inner glass dome and an exterior
copper- sheathed dome. Glorious stained glass windows and splendid
The symbols are of property developers - the builders. The bottom central panel represents the heraldic symbol of a finished building and the joining of two hands denotes the fusing of two cultures. There are many interesting and charming exhibitions and attractions throughout the building, along with portraits of the Queen. There is also a letter from Queen Elizabeth II to the Citizens of Sydney to be opened and read by the Lord Mayor of Sydney in the year 2085. Outside the QVB, on Town Hall Place, facing The Town Hall are the Royal Wishing Well and Queen Victoria's statue.
The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) was one of
the grandest and most ambitious buildings erected in Sydney during the
19th century. It was designed by architect George McRae in the popular
American Romanesque or Byzantine style and featured the domes, columns
and arches characteristic of that style.
In keeping with retailing trends in the city, the QVB replaced the stalls of ramshackle George St Market building with a beautiful shopping emporium of arcades and galleries lined with specialty shops. The development was conceived by the City Council during the economic boom of the 1880s as a means of removing the old markets while ostensibly retaining the dedicated 'market' function of the site. It was then a publicly owned building, erected on land owned by the City Council and paid for with public funds and credit. But construction of the QVB from coincided with the onset of depression in the 1890s and consequently the building became a financial drain on the council for many years.
In 1928 it was suggested that the building might best be used as a car parking station. Some years later, however, it was decided that the newly created Sydney County Council Electricity Department would use much of the building as office space. In 1935 there was an extensive installation of new interior fittings such as lights, air vents and balustrades, and ground floor exterior fittings such as doors, windows and supporting columns. The style chosen was Art Deco, in keeping with the modern image of the new County Council and its role in supplying electric power. The 13 January 1936 issue of 'Building' magazine described the result as 'striking in the modernity of its design'.
The QVB refit was part of a broader adoption of the Art Deco style in Sydney and other areas of Australia. In the 1930s and 1940s Art Deco denoted civic and industrial vitality. Among the companies at the forefront of this boom was Wunderlich Ltd, the pre-eminent local manufacturers of glass, ceramic and metal architectural elements and light fittings. Consequently the County Council contracted Wunderlich to supply much of the material for its new offices.
In the 1960s Sydney underwent a new wave of development and the favoured style was International Modernism, typified by tall glass, concrete and steel office blocks. With its Victorian facade and its mixture of piecemeal ground floor shops and now unfashionable Art Deco offices, the QVB was seen as a shabby eyesore. Proposals to demolish it were put to the City Council. However, various citizens and members of council resisted these moves and in 1971 a decision was made to preserve and restore the building as a historically significant site. It was not until the 1980s that work began on this restoration with the intention to return the building to its original style. As a result, the 1930s Art Deco fittings and many other interim elements were removed.
On the one hand the 'saving' of the QVB was part of a growing recognition of the importance of its historic and aesthetic significance. Its ultimate financial success owes much to this new 'heritage' appeal. On the other hand its preservation and restoration was not altogether typical of the era. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s many older Sydney buildings were demolished to make way for offices, new shops or residential developments. Among the most notable of these were the nearby Anthony Hordern's building, the Regent Theatre and the Walter Burley Griffin designed Pyrmont incinerator.
These Art Deco architectural elements and light fittings were amongst the items removed from the QVB in the 1980s. They are significant because they are material examples of the Art Deco boom that flourished in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s. Several pieces such as the light fittings and window panels were designed and made by Wunderlich. These objects also help to tell the story of the stylistic and social change that has characterised the story of Sydney through much the 19th and 20th century.
|QVB official website|
|History of the QVB|