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  • Concept for the “Line of Light” prepared for consultation showing ability to change colour for festivals and event mode (Copyright Electrolight).


Illuminating the National Heritage of Broken Hill

More than once Broken Hill has been given five years (or less) to live. That dismal outlook has hampered the progress of the town. Those who have taken the bold and confident view and have acted upon it are the winners today and have been so all along. Let their children prove worthy of them.

The Barrier Daily Miner, September 5, 1933

In January 2015 Broken Hill became the first urban area to be listed on Australia’s National Heritage List. Mary Knaggs from the NSW Government Architect’s Office describes an exciting new project that could infuse the historic CBD of the Silver City with a new energy.


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.


Community voice

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.

Perfect light

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.

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.

Living museum

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.


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.

  • Image is concepts prepared for community consultation and are copyright to Electrolight.
    Concept image for Line of Light artwork - day view..
  • Image is concepts prepared for community consultation and are copyright to Electrolight.
    Concept image showing special event laser lighting on the Line of Light.
  • Image is concepts prepared for community consultation and are copyright to Electrolight.
    Concept for the “Line of Light” - perspective at night.
  • Image is concepts prepared for community consultation and are copyright to Electrolight.
    Concept for the “Line of Light” - Sulphide Street to the Line of Lode perspective.
  • Image is concepts prepared for community consultation and are copyright to Electrolight.
    Concept for the “Line of Light” – plan diagram.
  • Image is concepts prepared for community consultation and are copyright to Electrolight.
    Concept - perspective along Argent Street showing Line of Light -and under verandah lighting.
  • Image is concepts prepared for community consultation and are copyright to Electrolight.
    Facade lighting concept - internal video projection in the windows of the Town Hall building.


A key element of the draft strategy is Electrolight’s Line of Light which creates an innovative lighting artwork, using reflection to create a landscape that is familiar yet hauntingly surreal.

Beautiful by day and by night, the illuminated cable provides a dynamic physical connection from Argent Street to the spiritual heart of the city – the Line of Lode.

Reflective silver mirrors on the slope of the Line of Lode reflect the Line of Light at night and the sky during the day. These mirrors can be engraved and sponsored by community members and visitors, continuing the tradition of commemorating those whose lives contributed to the story of Broken Hill.

The Line of Light continues down the centre of Argent St providing street lighting during normal operation. Full RGB colour change capability allows thousands of unique lighting scenes and effects to be created for specific seasons, events and festivals.


Facades of the heritage buildings are brought to life and celebrated with custom lighting. The use of colour will create a modern twist on a heritage façade on a daily, weekly or seasonal basis or for special events. Various methods will be used – internal video projection which can be themed and tell a story, internal lighting and facade projection.


The intersections of cross streets with Argent Street are a location for a new type of public space. By widening the footpath and providing shade, a place is created for visitors and locals to gather. At Chloride Street, the properties of chloride, its uses and historic relevance to the town will be made evident in commissioned artwork, custom seating and paving.

The draft design complements the language of continuous verandahs by strategic planting of reliable shade trees along streets and in public spaces.


In the draft strategy the square is the hub of town, incorporating infrastructure for temporary events and wi-fi connection. Shopfronts and verandahs will form active edges with opportunities for outdoor dining and vibrant window displays. By providing a level surface, the reconfigured square becomes accessible to all – a place for everyday gathering, and festivals. Inlaid pavement artwork is overlaid with a thin shimmer of water, using harvested, filtered stormwater and functioning as evaporative cooling in the desert heat. A row of water jets provide play opportunities. The water can be turned off at night, during water restrictions or for special events where space is required.


The unique qualities of Broken Hill are seen in the desert environment, its perfect light, the rich geology on which it was founded and its heritage. It is these qualities that are reflected in the draft CBD renewal strategy and concept designs for the town centre.

Client: Broken Hill City Council
Design Team
Allen Jack + Cottier,
NSW Government Architect’s Office,
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