on August 28, 2011
As I mentioned in my previous review I was visiting Victoria primarily for a conference. The conference itself was held in the Fairmont Empress, the pretty imposing hotel that you can't miss on a wander around Victoria. behind here however is possibly the less well known Crystal Garden, which was Victoria's first convention centre...but it was so much more. It was also a saltwater swimming pool, a dance hall, a tearoom and even a gymnasium. It has held a whole host of events from beauty pageants to military training exercises.Originally opened in 1925 it was the heart of downtown Victoria and although it has since lost it's swimming pool it is still part of Victoria Conference Centre. For our conference it was the site of the poster session and some evening presentations. The area that must have been a swimming pool still exists and there were a whole load of exhibits set out and it was a pleasure to wander round them. The glass and I suppose the shape of the building meant that all sounds were a little dulled or muted and it gave a really unique feeling to the place.My poster session was held on the first floor, in an area that could have been the tearoom or one of the dance areas. Standing around waiting for people to come and see my poster I could almost imagine the band playing people dancing on this level, while children shrieked and laughed in the pool below. It must have been a wonderful building in it's heyday. And I think perhaps that's the problem with it now, it once was a magnificent multi-purpose space that was not only used for business but also for leisure. Now the pool no longer exists it seems a bit sad and disused, even when it is full of conference delegates.All in all there is no doubt that this is a great unique space for a conference venue, with it's glass roof and 1920s architecture, but you can't help feeling that it's a shadow of it's former self!
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