Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The Queen Victoria Building
The Queen Victoria Building is beautiful shopping center in the Central Business District. It was designed by George McRae, a Scottish architect who lived in Australia and became the government architect of New South Wales. He submitted four designs, Gothic, Queen Anne, Renaissance and Romanesque, with the Romanesque style winning out. The building was finished in 1898 on the site where the Sydney markets had previously stood. A statue of Queen Victoria reigns outside the entrance.
According to the QVB official site, "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."
Later, the building housed the city library and various offices, along with "piano tuners, palmists, and clairvoyants." During the 1930's, the City Council was the primary tenant. On our visit, this Christmas tree was several stories tall, rising through the middle of the building and covered with gorgeous glass ornaments.
An original 19th century spiral staircase
The building was in danger of being demolished several times through 1959, but later the government put forth efforts to restore it and, in 1984, a Malaysian company called Ipoh, Ltd., took on a massive restoration project. The QVB reopened to the public in 1986. Another update took place in 2008-09. Today, the building houses many upscale shops and eateries.
A huge clock is suspended from the ceiling. It shows the time as well as the day and date, and a train makes its way around the top.
You could spend all day here, just looking at all of the many design elements and visiting all of the shops! We managed to do a little Christmas shopping and especially liked an indigenous artists' store. Unfortunately, we got to witness an "ugly American" trying to talk down the price of an object she wanted. The clerk gave her a discount and she was still not satisfied. She kept at it and at it till I was both embarrassed for her and irritated with her. She was whining about how much she really wanted it, and the clerk held firm and said that was the best she could do. After all that trouble, the woman changed her mind and left. Ugh. It was not a flea market or a garage sale, so I am not sure why she thought she had any bargaining rights at all.