on November 10, 2010
Queen Victoria Building is an ornate upmarket shopping arcade in Sydney, described by the French designer Pierre Cardin as "the most beautiful shopping centre in the world". The building itself is a major attraction, designed as a show-stopping replacement for the market that previously took place at the site and completed in 1898. Queen Victoria Building or QVB was created in neo-Romanesque style by the Scottish-born and trained architect George McRae and originally housed a concert hall, tradesmen' offices, shops, cafes and showrooms. After a period of decline in the role of council offices, it was restored in the 1980's and is now an upmarket shopping gallery, housing higher-end high-street shops, designer outfits and expensive boutiques. The long gallery has four levels, with the upper levels equipped with open walkways (with railings, obviously) which allow those there to look down and those at the ground level to look all the way up to the building's arched roof and the main domes. The interior is beautiful in this very ornate manner through which modern engineering has been just allowed to peep, so characteristic of grand Victorian constructions. There are two mechanical clocks with quaint diorama displays (one with royal moments from Magna Carta to Charles Stuart having his head chopped off) and the other with scenes from Australian history. The exterior is very fussy (though by comparison to the nearby Sydney Town Hall it appears positively restrained) in the way in which Victorians managed to overtake all excesses of Baroque, although the central dome helps to lift the structure and the whole somehow, bizarrely, works despite the massive overindulgence in the ornamentations' department. It's doubtful how many visitors to the Queen Victoria Building are actual shoppers but it's worth a stroll even if just to marvel at the design. The stained glass is lovely, the clocks certainly curious, and some of the shops interesting. There are some eating places and cafes inside as well as a cafe at the entrance with tables outside, so you can have a coffee looking at the wishing well with a dog figure that barks when you throw in a coin, admire Victoria's statue and listening to buskers in the square (sometimes very loud buskers).
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