Forty years ago today, in the heart of Liverpool, the International Garden Festival of 1984 opened to the public. The Horticultural Expo, the first to take place in the UK, spanned 95 hectares and welcomed more than 3 million visitors over five and a half months.

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of this major event that transformed a former landfill into a vibrant oasis, National Museums Liverpool reflects on the lasting legacy of Expo 1984 Liverpool and explores what remains of its enchanting gardens and sculptures.

The Japanese Garden. Image credit: National Museums Liverpool

Exotic Gardens and Artworks

The festival featured a wide array of gardens, each with its own unique design and theme. The Japanese Garden, gifted to the people of Liverpool, became one of the Expo's most beloved attractions. With authentic bridges, water features, and traditional planting, it drew crowds from all over. The garden was restored in 2011 by the original creators, who preserved many of the original features.

The Chinese Pagoda, another iconic feature of the Expo, has also undergone restoration after weathering the elements over the decades. The two pagodas were subject to a renovation project in 2010, with 5,000 tiles being soured from China as part of the restoration. The moon wall, which served as the gateway to China’s garden, was also refurbished, with the carved stonework being rebuilt in 2011.

The Moon Wall gateway to China's garden. Image credit: National Museums Liverpool

Unique works of art

Art was an integral part of the Expo’s appeal, with numerous public sculptures and installations dotting the landscape. The spiral sculpture from the United States pavilion, a striking piece, remains an iconic feature in Liverpool's cityscape. Many other artworks from the festival can still be found around the city, serving as reminders of Horticultural Expo 1984 Liverpool.

Today, National Museums Liverpool has created a guide to help visitors explore the legacy of the International Garden Festival. With a handy map and detailed information about the surviving artworks, visitors can embark on their own journey through Liverpool's history, tracing the footsteps of the first Horticultural Expo to be hosted in the United Kingdom.

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