From the World Heritage inscription:
The Royal Exhibition Building and its surrounding Carlton Gardens were designed for the great international exhibitions of 1880 and 1888 in Melbourne. The building and grounds were designed by Joseph Reed. The building is constructed of brick and timber, steel and slate. It combines elements from the Byzantine, Romanesque, Lombardic and Italian Renaissance styles. The property is typical of the international exhibition movement which saw over 50 exhibitions staged between 1851 and 1915 in venues including Paris, New York, Vienna, Calcutta, Kingston (Jamaica) and Santiago (Chile). All shared a common theme and aims: to chart material and moral progress through displays of industry from all nations.
Hot on the heels of the #2 most disappointing World Heritage site came #1.
I haven’t a clue why this was ever put on the list. It’s a nice old building, but there are lots of buildings like this in the world. It just doesn’t seem that special. Even Melbourne doesn’t seem to make a big deal out of it. Of all the things to see in Melbourne, this doesn’t rank high on the list and doesn’t merit much attention in tourist brochures.
I’d like to write a book some day on the politics of UNESCO. I think Australia plays the game very well and is great at writing proposals. Smaller countries just aren’t as good at playing the game and many worthy locations end up taking a back seat to richer countries.