Queen Victoria Building Sydney is one of the most beautiful shopping centres in Australia. It was threatened with demolition in the 1970s and 1980s but was successfully restored after an effective social campaign to save Sydney’s historic past. It marks a significant turning in Australia’s understanding of its historic architecture and is emblematic of reuse and refurbishment.
Since first opening in 1898, the Queen Victoria building Sydney QVB has had a mercurial history. Designed by George McRae, it replaced the original Sydney Markets and was named to honour the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee. Elaborate Romanesque architecture was chosen for the grand building, which housed a concert hall, coffee shops, showrooms, warehouses and a wide variety of tradespeople. Over many decades, the concert hall became the city library, offices proliferated and many tenants moved in.
Drastic Art Deco ‘remodelling’ occurred during the 1930s to accommodate the main occupant – Sydney City Council. From 1959 to 1971, the QVB faced near-demolition. A massive restoration project was given the green light and, in 1982, Ipoh Garden was awarded the restoration project and a 99-year lease. The fully restored Queen Victoria Building reopened her doors to Sydneysiders and visitors alike in 1986. A major refurbishment in 2009 restored her even further. Today the QVB stands in all her glory, testimony to the original vision for the building and the superb craftsmanship of the artisans who put it all back together again.
In 1897, the Council resolved to “dedicate the new market buildings”, then still under construction, to Queen Victoria and to name them ‘The Queen Victoria Market Buildings’ in commemoration of her Diamond Jubilee:
“…in order to mark in a fitting manner the unprecedented and glorious reign of her Majesty the Queen, so fruitful in blessings to the British people in every land … “.
The Councillors decided not to ask for the Queen’s assent, in part because it would have made it “necessary to have the Royal Coat of Arms on the building”.