Skip links and keyboard navigation

Expo 88 Nepalese Peace Pagoda

  • 602519
  • South Bank Parklands, South Brisbane


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
1 August 2005
Religion/worship: Temple
3.12 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Catering for tourists
8.1 Creating social and cultural institutions: Worshipping and religious institutions
8.6 Creating social and cultural institutions: Commemorating significant events
Construction periods
1986–1988, Expo 88 Nepalese Peace Pagoda (1986c - 1988)
1986–1988, Expo 88 Nepalese Peace Pagoda - Pagoda (1986c - 1988)
1988, Expo 88 Nepalese Peace Pagoda - Small Pavilions (1988c - 1988c)


South Bank Parklands, South Brisbane
Brisbane City Council
-27.47543057, 153.021331


Street view

Photography is provided by Google Street View and may include third-party images. Images show the vicinity of the heritage place which may not be visible.

Request a boundary map

A printable boundary map report can be emailed to you.


Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Expo 88 marked a shift in Brisbane's lifestyle, and it put Queensland on the international tourism map. The Peace Pagoda is a well-known reminder of an event that changed the way Queenslanders' view themselves and the rest of the world.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

The Peace Pagoda is rare in that it is the only international exhibit remaining on the old Expo 88 site. It is also the only example of a Nepalese temple in Australia, being one of only three that exist outside Nepal.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

As a faithful replica of a traditional Nepalese temple, it demonstrates the principle characteristics of a class of places.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The intricate woodcarving, undertaken by Nepalese craftspeople, has created a picturesque building that is much admired and photographed.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The Peace Pagoda has a strong association with many Queenslanders who attended Expo 88, both for its own sake, and as a reminder of Expo 88. The public effort to retain the pagoda in Brisbane is evidence of this attachment.


The Nepalese Peace Pagoda complemented the Nepalese Pavilion at the World Exposition 1988 (Expo 88), held at Southbank in Brisbane. The square, three-level replica of a traditional Nepalese temple is built of hand-carved wood, and has a double-tiered roof of brass with brass trimmings. It proved popular with the crowds who attended Expo 88, and the Peace Pagoda is the last international exhibit remaining on the Expo 88 site. It was originally sited near the Vulture Street entrance to Expo 88. In 1991 it was moved to its current location, amongst the rainforest near the northern riverbank entrance to the Southbank Parklands.

World Expositions (or Exhibitions) become increasingly popular after the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, but their frequency, and the standard of their facilities, was not regulated until after the 1928 Paris Convention on International Expositions. The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) was established in 1931 to administer the Convention. Under BIE rules there are two types of international exposition: the Universal/Category A/General Exposition, and the International/Category B/Special Exposition. The former involves broad themes, and participants design their own pavilions from the ground up, based on the theme.

The International Exposition, which has a narrower theme, is much cheaper to host, and is usually limited to one branch of human endeavour. Participants rent prefabricated pavilions from the host country's committee. Brisbane's Expo 88 was an International Exposition, with the theme "Leisure in the Age of Technology". Most of the structures built on exposition sites are intended to be temporary, but some sites have become parks, incorporating surviving exposition elements, including the sites of Montreal 1967, Seville 1992, Taejon 1993, and Lisbon 1998. Some structures have gone on to become landmarks in their own right, such as the Royal Exhibition Building (Melbourne 1880), the Eiffel Tower (Paris 1889), and the Space Needle (Seattle 1962).

The first bid to bring an exposition to Brisbane in 1988 began with James Maccormick , the architect who had designed the Australian pavilions at Montreal 1967, Osaka 1970, and Spokane 1974. The Brisbane Chamber of Commerce was converted to the idea, and lobbied the Queensland State Government during 1977. However, the Queensland Government was worried about the cost of a Universal Exposition, and was preoccupied with its bid for the 1982 Commonwealth Games. A second Queensland bid was made in 1981. The Australian Bicentennial Authority (ABA), under John Reid, wanted an Universal Exposition in Australia as part of Bicentennial in 1988, and the Federal Government was prepared to fund half of the cost of an exposition in Melbourne or Sydney. However, when these states turned the offer down in January 1981, Reid approached the Queensland Government with a proposal for a cheaper International Exposition. In late 1981 the State Cabinet funded a study that identified South Brisbane as the preferred site. The State Cabinet approved the study on 5 November 1981, on the condition that the Federal Government share the capital costs, but Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser rejected this notion in December 1981.

Queensland made two more attempts in 1982 for an International Exposition. Frank Moore, Chairman of the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation (QTTC), believed that private enterprise could fund the exposition, and that it would benefit Queensland's tourism. Queensland's Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen asked Prime Minister Fraser to get the BIE to keep a slot open for Brisbane in 1988. Fraser was willing to support this proposal, so long as there was no Federal financial commitment. However, Queensland private enterprise was not forthcoming, and Bjelke-Petersen withdrew the proposal in April 1982. November of 1982 witnessed a renewed bid by the State Government. The State would lend money to a statutory authority, which would be tasked with buying and developing the land, and managing the exposition. Brisbane's application was sent to the December 1982 meeting of the BIE in Paris, and was approved in June 1983.

The Brisbane Exposition and South Bank Redevelopment Authority (BESBRA) was established in February 1984 by an Act of the Queensland Parliament. BESBRA was soon referred to in the media as the Expo 88 Authority, or the Expo Authority. Sir Llewellyn Edwards, the Deputy Premier, was appointed as Chairman. In April 1984 the Expo 88 Authority's general manager, Bob Minnikin, claimed that Expo 88 would require $180 million to produce, including resumptions and development, and $90 million to run. It was hoped that gate takings and sponsorship would cover the running costs, and that the development cost would be recouped through selling off the site after Expo 88. Only 13 hectares of the Expo 88 site was private land, with the remainder of the 40 hectares belonging to either the State Government or the Brisbane City Council. Nonetheless, the last resumption did not occur until October 1984, as the owner of the heritage-listed residence 'Collins Place' fought a running legal battle with the Expo 88 Authority.

Grey and Stanley Streets were closed to traffic in July 1985, and demolition work began. Construction of the pavilions started in January 1986. The concept of the Expo 88 architects, Bligh Maccormick 88, included eight large shade-canopies, to protect the public from the Queensland sun. Landscaping began in March 1987, and the Monorail, which would circle the site on a 2.3 kilometre long track, was commissioned in June of that year. By January 1988, $90 million of the $136.8 million construction budget had been spent, and 7.8 million visitors were expected.

During 1987 developers had been asked to present their proposals for Southbank's redevelopment after Expo 88. In February 1988 the State Government announced that the redevelopment plan of the River City 2000 Consortium had been accepted. The Consortium, headed by Sir Frank Moore of the QTTC, had visions of a World Trade Centre on an island, and a casino. However, by early 1988 there was a growing call in the media for more of the site to be turned into public parkland. During March and April 1988 the National Trust protested the River City 2000 Consortium's scheme to move Collins Place, the Plough Inn, and the Allgas Building, three heritage listed buildings, to a historic village. Premier Mike Ahern eventually gave reassurances that this would not happen.

Expo 88 ran for seven days a week, between the hours of 10am-10pm, for six months. Between its opening on 30 April, attended by Queen Elizabeth II, and 30 October 1988, the Expo attracted 15,760,447 visitors, the majority of these being Australians. Most of the international visitors were Japanese, but 100,000 came from the United Kingdom and Europe, with 150,000 visitors from the United States. A total of 36 nations, two international organisations, 14 state and regional governments, and 34 corporations had exhibits.

The pavilions were mostly plain, modular, and temporary. However, the Nepalese Peace Pagoda is a distinctive building, and was easily noticed as the public came through the Vulture Street entrance to Expo 88. The Association to Preserve Asian Culture (APAC) commissioned the Peace Pagoda, which was built by 160 craftsmen of the Kathmandu Valley over two years, before being assembled in Brisbane. It is one of only three such temples outside Nepal, the others being at Munich and Osaka. Nepal has a long history of intricate woodcarving on buildings, and the Peace Pagoda was an attempt to showcase this skill to the world. The two small timber pavilions in front of the Peace Pagoda sold yoghurt lati, samosas, orange juice and lemon tea. Artisans demonstrated their crafts inside the ground floor of the Pagoda, and people could drink their tea and watch the Expo crowds from the teahouse on the first floor. The nearby Nepalese pavilion showcased traditional costumes, climbing dress, photographs, and artefacts.

Expo 88 was a turning point for Queensland's culture and economy, especially in Brisbane. On 30 May 1983 Joh Bjelke-Petersen had noted that if Brisbane's bid were successful, it would focus the world's spotlight on Queensland. Sir Frank Moore believed that the key to developing a major tourist industry in Queensland was a series of hallmark events, including the 1982 Commonwealth Games, which would focus attention on Queensland far better than any advertising campaign. Expo 88 was also intended to start Brisbane on a modernisation process, and towards becoming a 'global' city. The urban renewal of South Brisbane was just one aspect. In April 1984 Sir Llew stated that Queensland would never be the same again after Expo 88, and Brisbane would develop an image as a centre of trade, culture and entertainment. In April 1988 the Courier Mail claimed that Expo 88 was "bridging the yawning gap from a hayseed State to an urbane, international future". Sir Llew also claimed in April 1988 that the aim was for Expo 88 to be a catalyst for a change in lifestyle. Queenslanders had experienced extended opening hours and outdoor café dining, and had liked it.

While the crowds enjoyed Expo 88, controversy continued regarding future plans for the site. There were calls for more public input on redevelopment plans. About 4.5 hectares of land between Stanley Street and the river belonged to the Brisbane City Council (BCC), as Clem Jones Park, and had been lent to the Expo 88 Authority. In June 1988 it was decided to restore this land as parkland, and the River City 2000 Consortium lost its Preferred Developer status.

Government plans for a South Bank Development Corporation were announced, and in July 1988 an interim committee, headed by Sir Llew, was formed to oversee redevelopment. Sir Llew noted in October 1988 that more public funding was necessary to increase the parkland component of the new Southbank, as the land had been earmarked for development to repay for the cost of Expo 88. The draft redevelopment plans released in November 1988 included 12 hectares of parkland. Public submissions on the plan suggested that people wanted to be able to return to the Expo 88 site, to a public facility that had a similar combination of food, art and nature.

At the end of Expo 88, the APAC had planned to sell the Nepalese Peace Pagoda, and it appeared likely that it would be moved to Japan. However, 90,000 people had signed a petition during Expo 88 to keep the Peace Pagoda in Brisbane, and in late 1988 the BCC offered to provide land for the Peace Pagoda, if the Federal Government would pay for its cost and maintenance. A "Save the Pagoda Campaign" was active by February 1989. Public donations eventually totalled $52,000, with $30,000 coming from one couple, who wanted to "give Brisbane something to remember from Expo 88". The BCC provided $50,000, and the Federal Government supplied $100,000. "The Friends of the Pagoda Committee" also raised funds to buy several items that had complemented the Peace Pagoda, including a brass statue of the deity of compassion, a bronze bell and carved stone frame, and a stone lingam.

The Southbank Development Corporation was set up February 1989, with Vic Pullar as the Chairman. Approximately $200 million had been spent on developing the Expo site, and this money had to be recouped. The South Bank Corporation Act was passed in May 1989, and the former Clem Jones Park area was transferred to the Southbank Corporation, which was tasked with managing a new parkland precinct. In June 1989 submissions were sought from five architectural firms, and in August the "Media Five" concept of a mixed residential, commercial, and parkland development was chosen. Under Media Five's plans, the Peace Pagoda would be moved to the northern part of the parklands. The Media Five Chairman, Desmond Brooks, also suggested that Collins Place, the Plough Inn and the Allgas Building be removed to a historic village, but Vic Pullar rejected this idea. However, when the Southbank Corporation's Draft Development Plan was released in November 1989, it proposed to only keep the facades of the historic buildings. After protests by the National Trust, the State Government overruled the Southbank Corporation.

The proposed redevelopment included a waterway through the park, and a large lagoon, which was later downsized. In March 1990 the Final Plan was presented, after public submissions, and site redevelopment started in July 1990. The official Southbank Parklands opening occurred on 20 June 1992. The Waterway was later filled in and replaced with the Energex Arbour, which was officially opened in March 2000.

The transfer of the Peace Pagoda to its current site started on 24 September 1991. The deity of compassion was moved from the first floor to a glass case on the ground floor, the sides of the ground floor were encased in glass, and a display case was added inside. Access to the first floor was sealed off. The two smaller pavilions were also transferred, but their service windows were locked up. Two lion statues and two elephant statues were also relocated. The building was originally designed to be demountable, but it is currently set in a ceramic tiled floor. The Peace Pagoda was one of the best-loved exhibits at Expo 88, as visitors were able to relax in it away from the bustle of the crowds. Today it is still popular, both with tourists, and those who go there to meditate and reflect.


The Nepalese Peace Pagoda is currently surrounded by a low stone wall and rainforest plantings, and faces northeast towards the river. From the riverside walkway two sets of steps lead up to the platform on which the pagoda stands. Two stone elephants and two stone lions, set on a stone wall, flank the steps. To either side, at the top of the stairway, are set the two smaller food-service pavilions from Expo 88. These mimic the main pagoda in style and building materials, although they have a three-tiered roof. Just in front of the northeast face of the pagoda a bronze bell hangs from a stone frame. The bell is cast with the words APAC and Association to Preserve Asian Culture.

The timber pagoda is square, with two floors and a small attic, possibly for storage. It has a two-tiered roof, clad in brass. The triple-finial is covered in gold leaf, and a long brass ribbon drapes down the tiered roof levels on the northeast face. Two of the elevations of the ground floor each have five arched openings between the carved supporting posts, with carved screens covering their lower sections. The southwest and northeast elevations have triple doorways, with carved screens in the openings to either side. Glass panels have been installed inside each opening, except for the doorways. The northwest ground floor elevation has 1986 Nepal Peace Pagoda 1988 carved above the openings, and the southwest ground floor elevation is carved with the words APAC and Association to Preserve Asian Culture on the upper right hand side. The southeast ground floor elevation has Nepalese numbers and writing carved above the openings. The exterior carvings include gods, goddesses, and mythical animals. The first floor has carved timber screens, and carved roof supports that angle outwards. The attic, between the two roof tiers, has latticed window screens.

Inside the pagoda the post, beam, ceiling, and screen timber is carved with symbolic designs and scenes. The ceiling has scenes from the enlightenment of Buddha, the walls are carved with flowers, and the inner posts and doors are carved with deities. In the southwest corner stands a statue of Avalokiteshvara, the deity of compassion, within a glass case. The ground floor also contains: a display case, containing articles about the pagoda; stairs to the first floor, which is currently sealed off; and four timber benches. Another stairway links the first floor and the attic. The ground floor is paved with clay tiles. A reflecting pool and a stone lingam (a phallus-shaped religious fertility symbol) stand to the southwest of pagoda.

Image gallery


Location of Expo 88 Nepalese Peace Pagoda within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
  1. Is your feedback about:
  2. (If you chose ‘website’ above)

    Page feedback

    1. How satisfied are you with your experience today? *
  3. (If you chose ‘service’ above)

    Feedback on government services, departments and staff

    Please use our complaints and compliments form.