Summer colours. Exotic locations. Princesses. Mysticism. Lost palaces. Dreamy and poetic. All thoughts, themes, and feelings evoked for me by the nineteenth century photographs of Sydney’s Garden Palace. This is what I have tried to represent in the Garden Palace website.
What stands out the most from the many existing photographs of the Garden Palace is the Palace’s dome, giving Sydney Harbour an oriental atmosphere for a short period in the late nineteenth century – hence the choice of the above frame from the short film, shot inside Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building Dome. The animated rotating dome on the home page was an effect that suits the dome’s shape and stained-glass pattern and colours. It gives the site a dreamlike kaleidoscope feel right from the first page. This is also achieved by the choice of the three colours, which to me are calming and mystical, sunny and the colour of pink and green summer flowers in Sydney.
At the bottom of each section of the site, four green squares animate from left to right one after each other, a reminder of the dome’s stained glass pieces. The dome is a recurrent theme throughout the site. Once in ‘The fair’ section, an almost transparent outline of the dome shape from the top of Palace Garden gates appears, drawing our eyes away from the image banner along the bottom of the page to the centre panel of the screen, with the headings fading in and following the shape of the dome down the page, drawing our eyes finally to the text. The Palace Garden Plaque, found today on the Palace Garden sandstone gateposts, is also repeated across all five screens – symbolising its time in history, with a design that inspired Australia’s coat of arms.
The font type, such as the main heading consistent, across all pages was chosen as to me it seems quite royal, and from a time past. All text and headings attempt to give this feel, particularly the poem found in ‘The fire’ section. The straight lines across the screen consistent on each page give the design a balance, breaking the screen up into different sections for each of the elements. Gradient fills and low opacity settings add to the softness of the site. Some areas of improvement could be in the animated slideshow within ‘The Fire’ section.
It would have more effective to have a couple more photographs here and smoother transitions between the photographs, with perhaps a masked animation over the top. Additionally, in the ‘Map’ section the hotspot activity would have been more engaging and educational with some type of comparison between nineteenth century Sydney and today.
I believe, however, the site has achieved its aim of an engaging online resource for a museum or educational site, and more specific objectives of:
- unearthing the Garden Palace and the International exhibition of 1879. – portraying a lost slice of Sydney’s history.
- exploring what the garden palace was and hypothesise on how Sydney or the Royal botanical gardens may be different now.
It could be a useful and stimulating resource for educators, students, librarians and the general public. As most people do not know that the Garden Palace even existed, it hopes to inform and educate people about the garden palace.