Presentation watercolour by Lloyd Tayler of his design for the Exhibition Building, painted in 1878.

The building represented in this watercolour marks a significant period in Melbourne's development as a cosmopolitan city, riding on the wave of the incredible wealth generated from gold. In 1880, to demonstrate its optimism, enthusiasm and energy, Melbourne hosted an International Exhibition. With the passing of the New Exhibition Bill in 1878, the Victorian government agreed to finance a new exhibition building. A public competition was held and in May 1878 the winner was announced. From a pool of 18 entries, Joseph Reed of Reed & Barnes architects took first prize (and £300 prize money); Lloyd Tayler, a very prominent architect in Melbourne (and Australia) at the time was awarded £200 for this second place entry (as a consolation prize he was also appointed an exhibition commissioner with a gold pass to the Melbourne International Exhibition); and the third place was awarded to Peter Matthews who received £100.

Though Tayler did not win the competition, this watercolour of his design in perspective elevation gives a vivid sense of the grandeur envisaged by supporters of the International Exhibition.

Lloyd Tayler was born in London in 1830. In 1851 he moved to Australia, first to Albury, NSW, and then the Mount Alexander goldfields. By 1854 he was living in Melbourne and had established an architectural practice, initially with Lewis Vieusseus, but by 1856 he was working on his own.

Tayler designed the Colonial Bank of Australasia and in the 1860s and 1870s a number of branches for the National Bank of Australasia (in Richmond, North Fitzroy, Warrnambool and Coleraine). He was also the architect of the Australian Club in Melbourne (1878), the Melbourne Exchange, and the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Co., Melbourne (1880). In 1874, with Edmund Wright, he won the competition for the South Australian Houses of Parliament (begun in 1881), and in 1890 Tayler and Alfred Dunn won a competition for the Melbourne head office of the Commercial Bank of Australia. Tayler also completed a number of domestic projects in Melbourne and Victoria.

Tayler was an inaugural member of the Victorian Institute of Architects (1856) and was admitted a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1874. He was also a justice of the peace and a founder of the St John Ambulance Association in Victoria (1883).

Lloyd Tayler died in August 1900.

Physical Description

Large watercolour of a building in perspective elevation. In mount and gilded frame.


This unique presentation watercolour of Lloyd Tayler's second prize design award for the Exhibition Building will add considerably to the REB collection. MV holds two 1880 watercolours of the Exhibition Building, as designed by the prize winning architect Joseph Reed.

Like the Reed watercolours, this painting by Tayler is large and visually strong. In the reinterpretation plans for the REB it would be considered for display alongside Reed's prize winning entries. Interpretation would focus on a comparison of Reed's and Tayler's eclectic architectural styles, design of International Exhibition Great Halls, and pubic architecture in mid- to late-19th century boom-town Melbourne.

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