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Architecture and national identity in an era of globalisation: the rise and fall of the Sydney Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 11:14 authored by Orr, K
The Sydney Exhibition Centre by Philip Cox was conceived as an iconic building and recognised by the Sulman Award for its innovative steel technology, logical response to function and distinctive roofscape. It was one of a number of buildings constructed at Darling Harbour for Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988, intended to showcase the best in Australian architecture and symbolise Sydney’s cultural identity. Darling Harbour’s redevelopment from a disused shipping yard is an example of an urban environment constructed around the creation and representation of iconic forms, to be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. This paper examines the iconic status of the Sydney Exhibition Centre through a brief review of the literature published at the time of its design. Using the framework established by Robert Adam in The Globalisation of Modern Architecture (2012), it interrogates the interrelationships between iconicity, identity politics and the complexity of the global condition that provide the context for the building’s demolition in 2014. Also considered is the role played by the Transnational Capitalist Class, which has been defined by Leslie Sklair (2005, 2006) and identified as crucial to the lifecycle of iconic architecture. The circumstances of the Sydney Exhibition Centre’s demise demonstrate the fragility of iconicity and the fluidity of symbolic expression, and provide insights into the remaking of built environments and heritage values.


Publication title

Proceedings of the 13th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference (UHPH 2016)


C Bosman, A Dedekorkut-Howes






School of Architecture and Design


Australasian Urban History/Planning History Group and Griffith University

Place of publication

Gold Coast, Australia

Event title

13th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference (UHPH 2016)

Event Venue

Surfer's Paradise, Queensland

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Rights statement

Copyright 2016 Australasian UHPH Group

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding Australia’s past