About World Expo ’88
The 40-hectare site of the Expo was designed to please even the most ardent Expo critique – with the beautiful backdrop of the gently meandering Brisbane River and the skyscrapers of the City as a canvas, designers then split the Expo into several zones – each featuring a different colour of tropical and outback Queensland, and each corner filled with landscaped trees, shrubs and flowers indicative of the participating region of the world; scores of large-scale world-class international and Australian art work making the site one of the world’s most expensive and largest sculpture gardens; the humourous whimsy of the popular ‘Human Factor’ plaster-of-paris ‘still life’ figures in their various poses – a snap-shot vignette of day-to-day life; the almost eeringly realistic series of humanoid robot clones in silver-blue jumpsuits that stood 6ft tall in their glass pyramid prisms at all the entrance gates to the Exposition – some beckoning in jitter-like fashion outstretched arms – and others not – with their ‘beneath skin’ electrodes exposed – welcoming guests in computer synthesized speech in over 32 languages; to the meticulously planned street theatre comics, clowns and comedians that entertained the queues, lines and boulevards of the Expo – all under the shade of the eight massive tension-membrane ‘sun-sails’ that stretched above the Expo site, with skyward searchlights at each apex, 22 tropical fish blimps that soared higher still, and the watchful xenon beam eye of the slender copper-and-gold topped dome and spire of the 88-metre Expo Tower and Light Beacon ‘Night Companion’ above all – announcing to all near and far – ‘Welcome to World Expo ’88’.
The Melbourne Street Gate – with it’s grand entrance columns and monumental works of polished and corten bronze and steel – ‘Forme del Mito’, ‘Heureka’, and ‘Continuous Division’ – was the principle gate of the World Expo – where thousands could line in wait for entrance for hours without any disruption to services. The Vulture Street Gate – at the southern end – was the second principle gate – where here also, one could alight at the QR (Queensland Rail) CityTrain Expo Station, and in a matter of seconds be at the Expo’s door, passing by the popular Queensland Girl Guides ‘colours of the Great Barrier Reef’ inspired name-tile wall, where Expo visitors could leave their mark on the Expo site for the cost of a $2.00 donation, with their personalised message typed into one of the several thousand 2.5cm x 2.5cm coloured tiles that made an intricate patterned frieze of Queensland tropical coral and marine life in many gentle pastel colours. One could also arrive via Ferry, Helicopter or Hovercraft (from the golden beaches of the Gold Coast nearby or, the Brisbane Airport) at the popular Ferry Gate – where the queues were obviously less (many took advantage of this!).
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – also Queen of Australia – took advantage of the river form of transport to officially open World Expo ’88 at the World Expo ’88 Riverstage later that day – where after stationing the royal yacht Britannia upstream at Hamilton, the Queen and her party arrived at the River Stage pontoon in the Royal Barge – and in the presence of over 7,000 invited V.I.P. Guests – and many more millions watching the live telecast on the television – after noting her great-grandmother’s important role in opening the very first World Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, London, in 1851 – ‘well and truly declared World Expo ’88 open!’
The Australia and Queensland Pavilions – both joint ‘flagship’ Pavilions of Expo ’88 – were advantageously located in front of the 10,000 seater artificial green turf River Stage, where their special roof-top balconies allowed for V.I.P. viewing of the River Stage entertainment, laser shows and fireworks (directed from the FM-104 Control Tower), as well as close access from the Melbourne Street Gate. The Australia Pavilion in particular, whose entrance was located adjacent to the Expo symbol tower ‘Night Companion’ – and whose fun colourfully themed Ken Done 6-metre high AUSTRALIA alphabet letters stood proudly for all to see – featured a contoured roof reminiscent of the shape and the rich ochre reds, purples, and blues of Australia’s most important natural landmark and icon, the magnificent monolith of Uluru (‘little pebble’) – Ayers Rock. Outside, an open-air art gallery of works by some of indigenous Australia’s most famous artists Clifford Possum, Charlie Egalie, Billy Stockman and others took centre stage in the ‘Art of Central Australia’, where the rich red earth, rocks, palms and bushes of desert Central Australia provided the dramatic setting for the 27 works on display. Inside the Australia Pavilion, the $4 million Rainbow Serpent Theatre gave a stunning live theatre and technology representation of the legend of the Rainbow Serpent, and one could listen to the robotic rantings of ‘Blue’ – the 3-metre high ‘Sports’ robot who randomly gave out statistics on Australian sport. The Queensland Pavilion just next door, with it’s white-red-and-blue curved façade featuring revolving information boards of the State’s flag, flora and fauna, enticed Expo visitors to it’s many-story artificial rainforest foyer, and took them on a themed 50-person a-time pod-like train carraige ride, where in air conditioned comfort, they viewed the wonders of the sites and sounds of urban, bush, rainforest, and future Queensland – through rich interactive diorama presentations and humourous wax-model narrators with talking television box heads.
(The Queensland Pavilion also hosted the Expo Monorail which silently slithered along it’s blue neon track as it passed through the top stories of the Pavilion rainforest foyer. The 2.3km circuit Monorail track had two stops – Expo North (Melbourne Street Gate), and Expo South (Vulture Street Gate) – was free to ride with admission – and one could choose between doing a full-circuit, or only half-a-circuit. The Pavilion/’Night Companion’ base was also a good place to view the two daily parades of the Expo – the day parade (led by the 65-strong Expo City Marching Band) with the theme ‘Food’, and the QANTAS Light Fantastic evening parade – with the theme ‘Hermaphro – Queen of the Night’. Joined with numerous acrobats, performers, and clowns, in the guises of each Expo week theme, each float diorama was a mini-story in itself – and was completely computer-controlled.)
Nearby, Canada featured a rousing rendition of the stirring anthem ‘O, Canada, this is my Home!’ in her multi-screen audio-visual projection, with the State of British Columbia also piping in, with her ‘Adventures, British Columbia’ ‘interactive’ action-packed sports movie, the U.S.S.R. (the last representation at a World Exposition) highlighted the Australian map and Bible in ‘micro-miniature’ format less than millimetres wide, as well as hologram renditions of famous art works from the Hermitage, the Univations Pavilion (a consortium of Queensland Universities) featured the latest in research on the Great Barrier Reef and scramjet technology, the U.N.’s colourful ‘children of the world’ Ken Done-inspired façade presented a preface to it’s humourous movie on an alien’s perspective on Anno Domini 2020 Earth, with a gift shop with proceeds to U.N.I.C.E.F., the State Government participants of Australia – Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia presented vignettes of life in the future – and past – with Victoria’s seven-room presentation on the future of leisure and technology; a 1788-port reproduction of the First Fleet H.M.S. Sirius which doubled as a movie setting in the New South Wales Pavilion; a $AUD 250,000 gold bar that could be lifted but not taken with you as well as an electronic weight machine that calculated your weight in gold in the Western Australia Pavilion, and, at the popular TVO Pavilion – the official Expo TV broadcaster – one could view behind a glass partition the making of and presenting of not only the daily 6.00p.m. News Bulletins but also the other Morning and other programs broadcast throughout Queensland and Australia directly from the Expo site. Around the corner was also the popular Suncorp Sensus Play Area – a state-of-the-art interactive outdoor science maze for kids – (and adults!) – where Universal Studios brought to the Expo site the popular artificial intelligence car ‘KITT’ from the popular TV series ‘Knight Rider’, (one could line up to sit in the driver’s seat and converse with KITT on any topic!).
One also mustn’t forget the ‘unofficial’ Bavarian ‘Pavilion’ – the largest restaurant on site – the tavernous 1,300 seater ‘Munich Festhaus’ – where, in traditional Bavarian architecture, light fittings, attendants in traditional Bavarian lederhosen, serving sauerkraut and sausage to the lound themes of the live Bavarian brass band – playing – undoubtedly the biggest hit of World Expo ’88 Bicentennial Brisbane – ‘the chicken dance’ – hundreds of persons at a time would stop to the music and perform the movements of this rather incessant and ever-increasing in tempo, tune.
In the next zone, in the centre of the Expo site and by the river one could view the daily pyramid-(and other) formation stunts of the BP Waterski Spectacular, with the Australian flag flying high above each – and nearby, on land, one could find the European Square & boulevard, housing France with it’s dark-blue illuminated floor featuring scale models of it’s latest alpine and beach resorts – as well as the latest leisure equipment to boot; the Federal Republic of Germany Pavilion – also, the last representation at a World Exposition – where the German car industry showed it’s best; the European Community, with it’s obligatory Europe Map and flashing lights, and Information Booth with each publication in all of the EU official languages; the U.K. – with it’s HOTOL jet scale model, Proton ride simulator, and ‘Best of British’ Musicals performance stage outside the Pavilion (with the obligatory Tudor-style British Pub and Souvenir Shop); Italy – featuring the latest in Italian design – both for home, and holiday; and Spain – proud nation of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and 1992 Universal Exposition of Seville – featured scale models of both these sites, as well as precious originals of art work by Picasso, Dali and Miro, amongst others.
Towards the railway corridor side of the Expo site, one could find the mystery of the east at the People’s Republic of China Pavilion, with it’s 360-degree film presentation and Xi’an Terracotta Warriors; the Ford Pavilion highlighting the history of the car from Ford’s first release to the latest 1988-prototypes; the 500-seater capacity Amphitheatre – in the gentle protection of one of the smaller sun-sails – in the midst of the mist of the epiphyte forest with it’s magical larger-than-life beetles and stick-insects – replete with terrarium domes of rare flowering orchids and aviary of tropical Australian birds and lorikeets – the National and Corporate Day Flag Raising ceremonies took place – as well as a nightly laser production where the latest in state-of-the-art laser animations, could be seen; Cyprus, Pakistan, Fujitsu, Korea, and Hungary Pavilions – each with their own charm – Cyprus featuring works of art, a restaurant, and attendants in national dress – Pakistan a replica of a carpet-bazaar – Fujitsu with it’s 3-Dimension movie ‘The Universe’ – from molecule to star system – Korea – with it’s displays of the venues for the 1988 Seoul Olympics – and reproductions of traditional Korean homelife – Hungary – with it’s famous panorama of Budapest and it’s fine-dining restaurant – as well as the Australian Opal Mining Showcase – with it’s unique opal mine shaft ‘ride’ and cavern experience – and the Communities of Australia Pavilion – a weekly showcase of a different region of Queensland and Northern New South Wales, with the Indigenous Communities of Queensland Pavilion – where Queensland and Torres Strait Islander communities displayed their unqiue handcrafts and culture – just next door.
Also near here Australia Post delivered the history and future of Postal Communications – as well as a computer that linked you with a pen-pal from overseas, Queensland financial groups Suncorp and the Queensland Teachers’ Credit Union presented their own ‘sci-fi’ view of the future of banking, and Greece brought to Australian shores a survey of Greek art and sculptures from Byzantine to modern-day Greece – also with a focus on the modern-era – and ancient – beginnings of the Olympic Games. On the other side of the neon matrix roof wonderland of Times Square (an intricate heavenly display of time gone mad – 7.5km of neon weaved among neon) – Westpac Banking Corporation – Australia’s oldest bank (formerly the Bank of New South Wales) – had their on-site banking and Bureau de Change facilities here – in one of the oldest (restored) pre-Expo buildings on the site.
In the next zone was located the Japanese Government and Japan Technoplaza pavilions, found side-by-side in a position located towards the back of the centre of the Expo site, facing the Brisbane River and located adjacent to the island nations of the South Pacific at the calming Pacific Lagoon, which incorporated the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Western Samoa in a Disneyland-style recreation of the tropics – featuring huts, totem poles, and indigenous craftspersons, with a special boulder-rock stage amidst tropical swaying palm trees where daily – even during the balmy Brisbane winter months – visitors could sit together on the artificial green grass turf and watch traditional dancers in traditional attire perform traditional islander music.
The massive New Zealand and USA Pavilions were found nearby, with the imitation New Zealand ancient Kauri rainforest by the (other) bank of the Pacific Lagoon featuring near the exit of the New Zealand Pavilion (as well as a sheep farm-inspired setting for the Pavilion’s popular movie on the inside), and the popular Expo fountain and installation – ‘The Cascade’ – afront the main entrance of the U.S.A. Pavilion with it’s basketball court outdoors foyer – where, at any given time – one could see the rapid antics of the All-American Hackeysack Team, basketball legends ‘performing’ a slam-dunk, and school girl teams jumping to the ryhthm with their calisthenic rope-skipping recitations. Indoor, one could view the history of the U.S. at the Olympic Games – as well as test the speed of your pitch against a computer baseball speed-reader. The States of Alaska, with it’s massive Kodiak bear and ethnic displays, California, with it’s hi-tech aerial film voyage of the valleys and mountains of the State using the latest in satellite imagery, and Hawai’i with it’s illuminated models of each of it’s islands – highlighting the common surf culture with Australia – were also represented here – with the massive 800-seater ‘Americana Food Village’ themed-restaurant village giving one a choice between the cajun and creole of New Orleans at Chez Lousiane, West Coast Cuisine at Hollywood’s, New York fries at Broadway and 42nd Street, or the best of Polynesia at the Waikiki.
And, on the other side of the Pacific Lagoon, in their own themed settings, the famous ‘Lockwood Lodge’ brought one the best of New Zealand fair, one could sample the best of Japanese cuisine at the fine-dining Tsuruya, and islander cuisine at the Pacific Lagoon Restaurant, with the balconies of it’s signature thatched huts jutting out upon the Lagoon itself.
Next door the official Expo newspapers the Brisbane ‘Courier Mail’ and ‘The Sunday Mail’ of the Queensland Newspapers Group – presented a time-line of the old printing press to a prototype look at the future of newspapers – a computer screen. And, one was never far away from the umbrella-tree like formations of the Telecom Australia interactive ‘EXPO INFO’ Help Screen computer booths (over 50 of them were installed in strategic locations throughout the Expo site) – each with several touch-screen interface computers – delivering at the touch of a button information on the Expo site – in both Japanese or English.
In the midst of all the action was the Japan Pavilion – one of the largest and most expensive pavilions built costing $AUD 26 million Australian dollars and with three distinct elements, (i) the Pavilion itself with it’s signature mirror façade, (ii) the traditional Japanese Pond and Garden that met with the Pavilion entrance and exits and, (iii) a Japanese traditional leisure boat, made of pine wood, 17 metres in length and known as the ‘Yakatabune’ (evening boat), specifically designed for entertaining Japan Pavilion (up to 30 at a time) VIPs on the Brisbane River during the nightly fireworks. A multi-themed Pavilion with industrial car robots performing lion-dancing – a 1788 recreation of Edo (Tokyo) in miniature with animated Japanese character in Australian accent introducing traditional Japanese leisure and day-to-day life – and a 18-metre wall-to-wall floor to ceiling slide and Hi-Definition TV (Australian debut) presentation on today’s Japan – visitors to the Pavilion were also shown the more human aspect of contemporary Japanese leisure through classes and displays of Japanese calligraphy, ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), koto-playing (the Japanese harp), Japanese Tea Ceremony, as well as origami (paper folding). A consortium of Japanese regional and civic governments joined with the representation of several Japanese corporations in the adjacent Japan Technoplaza – where, amongst other exhibits, one could view (and listen to) the music played by a electric guitar with a robot hand brought to you by J.E.T.R.O. – the Japan External Trade Organisation – a television forest of computer animals that sang together in a harmonious chorus by Hitachi – ‘friendship capsules’ by Idemitsu – a children’s playground interactive maze by the Leisure Development Centre of Japan – a journey through the seasons of Japan with the Saitama Prefecture (sister state of Queensland) display – and watching the magic of water fountains and folding fans at the Kobe (sister city of Brisbane) exhibit.
The final zone, on the Exposition’s most southerly point, hosted the European Fair fun of the Piazza performance venue – where up to 2,000 seated and another 1,500 in the balconies could view the kaleidoscope of daily entertainment from wood-chopping to body-building – Inner Mongolian acrobats to American mime artists and magicians – and ‘Circus Oz’ to the ‘Expo Oz’ show – a variety dance and song show featuring (in costume) Expo Oz and friends!
The other states/territories of Australia – Tasmania, South Australia, Northern Territory – featured displays on their touristic charms – as well as how to book your next holiday via interactive computer data-base, Australian Airlines, Comet Express – TNT, The India Centre, LITS Tour and Travel Service, Mater Misericordiae Hospital, the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse, and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons banded together to form promotional exhibits for their respective services at ‘The Plaza’, Papua New Guinea – a second pavilion to her Pacific Lagoon representation featured totem poles and large-scale photo portraits of tribal elders in traditional head-dress, in IBM’s completely computer controlled Pavilion, computers calculated optimal visitor entrance settings – as well as featured displays on the future of leisure and technology, NASA sent Australia an exhibit of astronauts and space rockets which formed part of a tri-angluar space frame jutting out from the sleak lines of the Monorail above, the Magna Carta Pavilion (with one of the four original calf-skin copies), the Yugoslavia ‘Colours of My Country’ Pavilion with it’s displays of Yugoslavian inventions and the fine arts, the Indonesian Pavilion featured an impressive façade recreation of a Sulawesi ‘Toraja’ house, with batik and crafts displays on the inside of the Pavilion, the Nepal Peace Pagoda (a three story hand-made replica of a Kathmandu Temple) and Pavilion featured a photographic exhibition of Nepal’s temples and mountains, Cadbury Chocolate – the ‘Expo Oz’ chocolate factory, Service Clubs of Australia Zonta, Rotary, Lions and Quota, hosted a Service Club for their members, one could make inter-denominational prayer requests at the Expo Chapel, the $AUD 10 million Switzerland Pavilion with it’s unique sub-zero artificial snow fields and slalem ski slope – and gondola ride (!), Thailand with it’s dioramas of Thai culture and day-to-day life, Brunei Darussalam – with it’s displays of traditional arts, leisure and culture, Malaysia – with it’s handcrafted wood-carved exteriors captured the mystique of Malaysia and was popular also for the Pavilion Restaurant – the Sate Ria Restaurant, Singapore – a tourist display brought to you by Singapore Airlines and the Singapore Port Authority – replete with model of the famous Singapore ‘Merlion’ at the Pavilion’s entrance, the Philippines, an imaginatively presented floor-to-ceiling photo panorama setting transported you to the idyllic beaches and villas of the nation’s resorts, the Captain Cook and Holy See Pavilions – with their own respective priceless treasures on loan for the Bicentenary, Sri-Lanka featured her craft, arts, and famous tea, Kenya (the only African state represented at the Expo) featured an entree into traditional Kenyan woodwork, as well as a hot-air balloon themed movie presentation, the ‘Silo in the City’ Australian Primary Industries Pavilion brought the country to the city with each major produce represented, and the Queensland Maritime Museum displayed the H.M.S. Diamantina in-dock, and the Pavilion of Promise (a Christian consortium) won hearts over with the movie presentation ‘The Scroll’, also popular at Vancouver’s Expo ’86.
This zone also included the Aquacade – a first-time for Australia – where a 5-times daily show spectacular of synchronised swimming, high aerial diving, dance, theatre, stunts, and more captivated 3,000 visitors at a time with a humourous rendition of the high drama of ‘Bligh’s Follies’; the popular Boardwalk-themed and named Restaurants and Cafés, with the popular paddle-steamer Kookaburra Queen offering Queensland seafood smorgasboards on her two story-decks; the V.I.P. suite of the Expo Authority in Expo House ‘Club 88’ – high up upon the Mater Hill end of the site overlooking the rest of the Expo, Brisbane River, and City; and the ‘Bulletin Executive Club’ where private V.I.P.s of Australian Consolidated Press were entertained.
At the other end of the site, World Expo Park – the $AUD 52 million space-themed roller-coaster and Fun Park – free admission with your Expo ’88 ticket – gave visitors the more traditional fun park environment – and many hours beyond the 10.00 p.m. close of the Expo each night. One could dance to the rhythm at the ‘Heat Wave’ Disco until 3.00 a.m., record your favourite pop song with your own vocals and friends at ‘Wavelength Sound Studio’, eat to your hearts content at ‘The Galaxy’ and ‘Star Terrace’, and experience the latest in roller coasters and rides from the tight-double-barrelled corkscrew of ‘The Titan’, to the dark and speedy caverns of the ‘Supernova’.
Intended to become a permanent theme park after the end of Expo ’88 – World Expo Park only made it to the Expo’s First Anniversary – 30 April 1989 – where, under the clever management of FM-104, many of the famous street performers of World Expo ’88 were called back ‘one more time’ to entertain the nostalgic at a one-week long Expo ’88 Festival – but soon after, the Park was sold, and became the site for the new Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre. Today, the Nepal Peace Pagoda, now in it’s new riverside location, is the only Pavilion from World Expo ’88 that remains from the Fair, and, with the new Southbank Parklands – the post-expo site development – is a lasting legacy of the wonderful world of World Expo ’88.