|Location||South Wharf, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Owner||Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust|
|Operator||Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust|
MEC: 30,000 m²|
MCC: 2,021 m²
MEC: 14 February 1996|
MCC: May 1990
MEC: A$129 million|
MCC: A$125 million
MEC: Denton Corker Marshall|
MCC: NH Architecture and Woods Bagot
Masterplan Lead Designer: Larry Oltmanns
The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is the name given to two adjacent buildings next to the Yarra River in South Wharf, an inner-city suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The venues are owned and operated by the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust.
The Melbourne Exhibition Centre Trust was created in August 1994 with the responsibility of overseeing the construction and development of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. In February 1997, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust began, replacing the previous trust with the added scope of the Melbourne Convention Centre, formerly called the World Congress Centre Melbourne. In August 1997, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust became owner and venue manager of both the Melbourne Exhibition Centre and the Melbourne Convention Centre.
The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust is also responsible for managing and promoting the use of the Royal Exhibition Building in the Carlton Gardens. As a government-owned trust, The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust is responsible to the Minister for Tourism.
It has a pillarless floor space of 30,000 square metres, making it the 2nd largest in Australia and one of the largest spaces in the southern hemisphere, which allows it to host thousands of large exhibitions, some which are held each year. The building was designed by Denton Corker Marshall, an architectural firm responsible for many of Melbourne's larger buildings through the early 1990s, and features their characteristic "blade" entrance. In 1998 a covered footbridge was erected between the Exhibition and Convention centres, parallel to the Spencer Street Bridge.
The building resembles a long shed with separated operable walls (each valued at $250,000). This allows the space to be split from a maximum of 30,000 square metres of 360 metres long by 84 metres wide into a minimum of 3,000 square metre spaces. The single volume with a proportion of length to width of approximately 2.5:1 was chosen. Other than the exhibition space, the building also has a basement that is able to hold 1,000 cars. From the main entrance, visitors would be able to see the 450 metres southward vista of the concourse as well as the mezzanine balconies. On the first floor of the entry pavilion and extending along the mezzanine platform, there are meeting and function rooms which separates the double-height hall and concourse. Some have large windows overlooking the exhibition.
The Melbourne Exhibition Centre was to be built larger than the Sydney Exhibition Building while still costing the same. Although, the recently built International Convention Centre Sydney retook the status as Australia's largest exhibition and convention centre in 2016. The building has become an icon in Melbourne due to the main entrance which consists of metal blades tilted at an angle and supported by a pair of yellow rods which is hard to miss even among its more prominent neighbours.
The site for the Exhibition Centre was previously the site for Daryl Jackson’s Museum of Victoria. The brief required DCM to work with the partially built concrete structure. According to Melbourne architect and critic Norman Day, the column-free space could be associated to the Russian Constructivist of the 1920s such as the Vesnin brothers' Kiev railway station scheme 1926. Another relation to the Russian Constructivist is the cantilevered structure supported by yellow steel props as well as the large metal letters arranged over the top of the entrance.
The building consists of two different roof designs which are angled at different directions. This was due to the intention to create two different successful spaces which is the exhibition space and the public space (concourse of the building). By this method, the architects manage to create two different environments, one which is an enclosed exhibition space and another is the concourse which is open to the public.
Due to the brief that required the building to be constructed in a short amount of time and save cost, a repetitive system of identical trusses clad in aluminium sheet were used. On top of that, the trusses have to be solid in order to provide sound isolation from one hall to the next. At the same time, in order to reduce the span, and to stiffen them laterally, the architects tapered them in cross section.
The two rows of columns that are located in the verandah (the building’s long frontage facing the river) are intended to give a subtle separation of the interior and exterior of the building.
The blades which are located along the concourse are coloured in a series of Francis-Bacon-inspired colours, with hall numbers stencilled on. This serves as a double purpose of punctuating the linear volume and labelling the halls.
The aerodynamic treatment of the colonnade canopy, which disperses wind, influenced another Melbourne architect, Peter Elliott, in the design of the Spencer Street Footbridge in 1999.
The old Convention Centre on the opposite side of the Yarra River was opened in May 1990 and has hosted thousands of conventions and meetings. The building was originally intended to be used by the Melbourne Museum but Jeff Kennett intervened during construction to have the building used as a convention centre.
The new Convention Centre, on land adjacent to the Exhibition Centre, was completed in 2009. At a cost of A$1 billion, the development consists of a 5541-seat Plenary Hall that can be divided into three separate theatres, 32 meeting rooms of various sizes, a grand banquet room as well as a Hilton hotel, office, residential and retail space. It was developed by a consortium led by Brookfield Multiplex and Plenary Group and designed by Larry Oltmanns. The new centre uses a range of features in order to achieve a 6 Star Green Star environmental rating and to become the first convention centre in the world with that rating. The architects for the development were NH Architecture and Woods Bagot.
Melbourne Exhibition Centre viewed from Crown Casino. The new convention centre can be seen under construction in the background.
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