"The Hordern" as it is affectionately known by Sydneysiders, has been an architecturally and socially significant Sydney landmark since its construction in 1924. Now best known as a rock concert venue, the Hordern Pavilion was originally constructed to meet the increasing demands for exhibition space at the Royal Easter Show.
The Pavilion was named in honour of the enterprising retail family, Anthony Hordern and Sons, and Sir Samuel Hordern, who was president of the Royal Agricultural Society from 1915 to 1941. The building is designed in the Inter-War Academic Classical Style with rendered masonry featuring classical detailing inside and out, including fluted doric columns, a parapet and an imposing vaulted roof with lantern tower. It cost £45,000 to build.
The first exhibition held at the Hordern Pavilion was a celebration of the progress of industry, technology and enterprise. Electric lights, wireless broadcasting and the latest motor cars were among the exhibits.
In 1972 the Hordern Pavilion was modified to make it more versatile. Most of the columns were removed and replaced with a new truss system, false ceilings were introduced and a bar and ticketing boxes, together with a mezzanine corporate box area, were constructed. The scene was set for the Hordern to blossom.
"The rock scene came surging back and the Hordern was the epicentre," says Glen E. Baker. "Jethro Tull, Eric Clapton, Yes, Gordon Lightfoot - so many great nights. One amazing moment came when a certain Norman Gunston, aka Garry McDonald, climbed onstage and played harmonica with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention."
Capable of holding 5,500 punters, the Hordern remained the city's largest indoor venue until the opening of the Sydney Entertainment Centre in 1983. In the late 1980s and early '90s, the Hordern hosted the birth of Australia's rave movement, with dance parties (as raves were called in the early days) run by entrepreneurial collectives such as the Recreational Arts Team (RAT).
In 1997, the Royal Easter Show moved to Homebush Bay, and the Hordern became an independent venue. It was renovated and refurbished in 1999 and now offers flexible and modern facilities to stage Australia's greatest events. In the last four years some of the world's leading rock musicians have appeared at The Hordern, including Muse, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Cold Chisel.