In 2014 Broken Hill City Council engaged Allen Jack + Cottier, the NSW Government Architect’s Office and Electrolight to prepare a CBD renewal strategy.
The resulting draft strategy forms part of Broken Hill Heritage City – Living Museum and Perfect Light Project – an initiative from Council to foster creativity, inclusion and innovation including a film studio, state of the art conference facilities and festival venues.
The project aims to restore Argent Street to its rightful place in the social fabric of the nation – uniting residents with visitors in Australia’s first National heritage city. The brief provided by Council envisioned a Silver City which features dynamic urban art installations incorporating sound and light technology, sending a clear message to residents, visitors and investors that Broken Hill is a destination differentiated from all others, through its originality, fearlessness, creativity & cultural narrative.
This is more than a main street beautification project. It is authentic, grounded in the place and a reflection of the people. The team gained a clear idea of the core values, desires and concerns of the community. Participants displayed great pride in the unique character and heritage of the town and contributed a variety of creative ideas for urban activation and interpretation.
The project references the red dirt, stone and rusted steel that has built the town, the vast landscape that stretches to a distant horizon, the huge expanse of sky, the pattern of water through the desert and its hardy vegetation. The ‘Line of Lode’, a massive mound of mining waste that dissects the town, is a major presence, visible from near and far and illuminated by the setting sun.
For decades Broken Hill has been known as a place phenomenally blessed with perfect light. The climate allows a unique clarity and intensity of light by day, and a dark night sky highly valued by astronomers. Reflection was a key project driver: in the landscape and in the glittering silver world of Priscilla. A thriving art scene continues to attract artists, photographers and film-makers to the Silver City.
The rich geology of Broken Hill is the reason for the town’s existence. These minerals and elements give their names to the town streets – Argent, Iodide, Oxide, Chloride, Sulphide, Bromide, and Kaolin. It is proposed that the colours of the minerals be used in the new works such as paving, street furniture, landscape and artworks to reflect the sense of place.
The Living Museum is the city, its structures, its people and its culture. The heritage streetscapes provide an unchanging setting for the human story – the blood, sweat and tears that are part of life in a frontier town. Descendants of miners and pastoralists are proud to share their stories. Visitors want to meet and mingle with these characters and learn how they live, work and play.
ACTIVATION + PUBLIC ART
An essential part of the vision is to create a unique, lively and diverse town centre that is safe and open to social and cultural exchange. Activation will be on a daily basis as well as for special events and festivals. The draft renewal strategy recommends a combination of immediate and long-term strategies achieved through council initiatives and public/private partnerships. Immediate actions include wifi provision, illuminated shopfront displays, extended trading hours and pop-up enterprises. Longer term strategies consider a range of town centre housing options, relocating the library as a main street anchor tenant and a diversified retail strategy.
The city becomes a living showcase for home-grown and international artists to tell the many, layered stories of Broken Hill using traditional techniques and leading technologies. Public art strategies include a laneway program that engages with local youth and the development of a new Broken Hill heritage and culture app using first person narratives and imagery to bring the city to life.