O U N D A T I O N   E X P O  ' 8 8
Progressing the World Expo '88 Vision
- A non-government not-for-profit entity celebrating Brisbane's World Expo '88 -

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About World Expo '88

Post-Expo Blues
South Bank Corporation
The Future

Once the official closing ceremony had passed, crews arrived early for the next stage in the Expo's development - it's demolition! Due to duty tax, many of the imported items for the Exposition could not be re-sold - and had to be destroyed or donated. The common pre-fabricated shells of the Expo Pavilions came down as quickly as they came up. The Expo sun-sails were pulled down and rolled up. The monorail and track was sold and re-installed elsewhere. The Expo Night Companion Sky Tower was saved from going to Tokyo Disneyland by local entrepreneur Stefan Ackerie - and moved to his hairdressing empire mecca HQ just a few hundred metres away from the Expo site. The River Stage got packed up and sailed away down the river. Most pavilions were gone in a day - and the destruction was relentless.

Yet, a few powerful memories of the Expo remained - due to some hard work - and much good will.

One of the few Pavilion structures made by the participant - the beautiful handcrafted wood-work of the three-tiered Nepalese Peace Pagoda - was retained. And,
the popular tranquil synthesis harmony of the Australian trees, shrubs and flowers and Japanese garden design of the Japanese Pond and Garden of the Japan Pavilion -  was moved to another part of the city, to the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens - both permanent reminders of the ties that bind country and country together in a World Exposition.

Numerous works of art from the Exposition were also purchased and re-located to other parts of the city. And some, lornfully missing their favourite Pavilion Restaurant or evening at the Munich Festhaus, continued to walk through the City streets in half-a-daze - occupying the best seats in Jimmy's on the Mall - hoping that by surveying the passing shoppers and pedestrians,  World Expo '88 might come alive one more time.....Brisbane did change, however, and it's sleepy town image was vigorated into one of a cosmopolitan and sophisticated metropolis - with greater expectations - whereas pre-Expo Brisbane closed it's doors at 12 Noon Saturday and didn't open them again until 9.00 a.m. Monday - Brisbane residents - now used to shops, restaurants and cafes open every day of the week from 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. came to expect that department stores in the City follow suit - and largely they did - not only for the hours during the Exposition - but also after the Expo as well - resulting in Brisbane City having one of the most liberal retail trading hours systems in all of Australia, where now, Saturday and Sunday trading - by large - also follow weekday trading regulations.  A legacy we still enjoy in 2024 Brisbane today.

The six-month party now over,
the Brisbane Exposition and South Bank Redevelopment Authority now looked towards the redevelopment of the South Bank expo site, engaging the public at many levels - with an Information Centre on the former site, and also numerous 'in-the-suburbs' community consultations, where several proposals were aired - one of which included turning the site into a 'mirror' CBD site (a false island in the River, with 50-story international hotel, and World Trade Centre), and another which split the Expo site into several time-themed zones of gardens and facades, where in 30-year segments Bicentennial Australia was celebrated - in a permanent fashion - including two extra zones 'for the future'.

Both these proposals - despite initial approval of the World Trade Centre proposal - were popularly knocked back - the general consensus being that the South Brisbane side of the river need not be as developed as it's North Brisbane counterpart - and that as much of the residential charm of South Brisbane and West End's character be preserved, resulting in the popularly chosen model for a large parkland, with fountains, walkways, a tropical rainforest,
an artificial sand salt-water beach and pool, numerous rockpools, restaurants, cafes and waterways, and tiered low-medium impact residential and office space towards the rear of the site. 

Thus, South Bank Mark I - to much fanfare - was opened in 1992, just four years after the exposition last shut it's gates.

This was not the beginning of the end, however, for South Bank's development - but just the start. A few years into the public operation of the parklands, a review was made of the South Bank re-development, and, amongst other prominent
features, the waterway boat canal that ran from one end of the site to the other, was replaced with a mauve bouganvillea-covered arbour walkway, the 'Energex Arbour Boulevard', with it's imaginative steel tendril-shaped clasps several metres high for support; and the short-lived 'Gondwana Land' Australian Fauna Zoo was dismantled, along with the prettily designed but low patronage Butterfly House. Other changes included re-development of the former World Expo Park site into the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre; converting the IMAX theatre venue (constructed after Expo) into a standard cinema complex; and connecting the southern end of the site with the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Queensland University of Technology across the Brisbane River with a 'high-tech' pedestrian/footbridge called the 'Goodwill Bridge' after Brisbane's successful hosting of the 2001 Goodwill Games - all of which have been a great success. 

In today's Brisbane, most of South Bank Parklands is complete, apart from the odd pocket of land here and there. The popular Boardwalk eateries were dismantled in the early 2010s and was replaced with the "River Quay" riverside parklands and more 'up market' restaurants and cafes; the parcel of land near QPAC (the Queensland Performing Arts Centre) and the former Canadian and USSR Pavilions has been converted into the Queensland HQ of the ABC - Australian Broadcasting Corporation; the futuristic Neville Bonner bridge connects South Bank with the integrated Queen's Wharf Casino & Resort on the other side of the river; and the final chapter of QPAC - a new 1,500 seat theatre - continues to wow crowds at this very popular venue.

So, the never-ceasing work at the former Expo site still continues - in a way - still a present reminder that there is life in change and that the Expo is still with us....and, in the lead-up to the 40th Anniversary in 2028 - once more, World Expo '88 will take centre stage at the southern banks of the Brisbane River, where the 'celebration of a lifetime', is celebrated one more time.

Further information about South Bank Parklands can be found at the South Bank Corporation web-site, https://southbankcorporation.com.au.

In summary, the South Bank Re-Development, has been - and is - a complex beast - and whilst having it's early critics, it has re-born itself into one of the most popular and most visited parks in all of Queensland, with record numbers of nearly 15 million visitors per year.

The parkland has successfully re-created itself when necessary, and is still under development as new office
 space, upmarket residential apartment and boutique apartment hotel space, are added to the site, making it a central inner-city urban and park destination for locals and visitors alike.

As a development so far - it has been a most successful re-development - and one that continues to attract observers from other past and future Expo cities as they themselves decide how to best utilise the heritage given to them by hosting a World Exposition.

I encourage you to view a collage of photos of South Bank today HERE