Cultural Precinct and Library & Archive

  • Project typeMajor construction
  • Project value$20m



For many years Broken Hill's central business district has been gradually contracting due to population decline and the advent of online commerce.

In 2015 Council committed to combat this economic stagnation by re-establishing its library service in the main street to provide a drawcard 'anchor tenant' and increase foot traffic in the area.

It was originally planned that the library would be relocated to the former Pellew and Moore building, and the Outback Archives would be moved into the basement of Council's Administrative Centre.

This plan was poorly received by the public, and in August 2017 Council rescinded the decision and sought public input on the library's future.

The public overwhelmingly supported the rear of the Town Hall Facade as the site for a new library and demanded that the library service and Outback Archives remain in the same facility.

With a prospect of a completely new facility now on the cards, Council again sought public input, this time asking what users would like to see in a new library building.

Responses showed that users' needs had evolved beyond simply borrowing and returning books. There were requests for maker spaces, public art, gaming computers, dedicated family and children areas, and much more.

The public clearly wanted more than a simple library. There was demand for a multi-use facility that could serve as the heart of the cultural precinct in the city's CBD.

In September 2018 Council appointed Neeson Murcutt Architects to undertake extensive research, engagement, and design to bring this multi-faceted concept to life.


More than a library

The cultural precinct delivers more than a library and archive – it also provides:

• A new public outdoor space (Library Square) with seating areas, shade, stage and children’s water play 

• Activation of the old Town Hall façade, including improved access for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and prams 

• A Council customer service desk within the Library

• Future commercial opportunities for the old Police buildings


Integrated Archive

The Archive is accessed from inside the Library, retrofitted on the ground floor in the old library building. The Archive Reading Room is situated within the former fire station engine room, remembered through new engine red carpet.


New convenient parking 

The old demountable buildings at the back of the old Police building are removed to create a new shaded carpark with 35 spaces, including accessible parking bays located closest to the library entry. 


Make a splash

A water feature incorporated into Library Square will provide a place for kids to play and cool off, and also help cool the outdoor space.


A safe place

The internal layout of the building maximises passive surveillance to make this a safe and vibrant place. The library overlooks the square and carpark using best practice in crime prevention through environmental design.


A clear front door

A single level entrance from Library Square to the Library itself is clear, safe and accessible. 


Access equity

The Library, Archive, Library Square and old Town Hall are all designed to be accessible by everyone and welcoming to all. 


Children and families

The children’s area is acoustically separated from the main reading room with glazing and opens directly onto a shaded Children’s Courtyard.


Community meeting rooms and maker space

A meeting room with kitchenette, two group work rooms and a maker space with community lockers are all located within the Library. 


Youth facilities

The mezzanine is especially designed for youth and includes facilities such as a video editing suite and study booths.


Exhibition space

The library entry doubles as an exhibition space and can be opened up directly to  library square for special events. 


Council service desk

A council service desk is integrated with the library entry to provide greater convenience to the community. 


Positive workplace 

The Library Archive is designed to operate with current staffing levels, and as a positive and safe workplace. It considers the needs of volunteers who are so important to services that the facility is able to provide.




Library Square celebrates heritage

The new Library Square is defined by some of Broken Hill’s finest heritage buildings – the old Town Hall, the old Police building, and the old Post Office.


Town Hall extension

A modest extension to the old Town Hall (elegantly accommodating a lift) leaves all existing heritage fabric visible and untouched and provides a (small) performing stage for future events, and the capacity for movies to be screened on the rear of the building. 


Heritage curtilage

The carpark provides a respectful landscape curtilage to retained heritage buildings.


Charles Rasp Memorial Library

The existing building is partially retained with necessary modifications clearly distinguishing old from new.



Plant selections reference the cultural history of Broken Hill with a mix of both indigenous and exotic species.



Materials and colour choices reflect the cultural history of Broken Hill including steel, terracotta, high-visibility safety colours, mixed with natural finishes such as timber.


Indigenous recognition 

The traditional owners of the land, the Wilyakali people, and other indigenous communities will be welcomed and acknowledged through this project.




Retain and repurpose

Retaining useful buildings reduces energy usage associated with demolition, waste disposal and new construction, and promotes sustainable development by conserving the embodied energy in the existing buildings. 


Highly insulated walls and roof to new Library

A well-insulated building allows efficient air conditioning in summer and efficient heating in winter.


Healthy interiors

Internal finishes will be low VOC with a focus on natural materials.


Manage the precious water resource

Recycled greywater will be used to irrigate the library garden. The infrequent rainwater will be captured and stored in tanks. 


Balance natural light

Shaded skylights will allow light into the interior reducing the need for artificial lighting.


Passive Design

The use of geothermal storage and passive façade design will allow library to run without cooling for 50% of the year.


Mine the sun

Energy from the 100KW solar array on the roof will be stored in batteries with capacity to run the centre in power failure condition.


A cooling centre

The Library Archive will be designed as a community cooling centre refuge in future extreme heat events.


Social Purpose

The space is designed to enable access to educational and maker space opportunities for local community use and skills development. 


Local Business

The project is designed to support local industry to the greatest extent possible, including indigenous youth job creation. 




Outdoor ‘rooms’

Outdoor areas in the cultural precinct are designed as outdoor community living rooms because for much of the year the weather in Broken Hill is beautiful.  


A place to gather

The Library Square offers places to meet, sit, read, wait or rest and a place of special events - markets, outdoor cinema, art installations, community celebrations and dinners - with a permanent stage connected to the old Town Hall Building. Shade and water play help make this place comfortable into the warmer months, with sunny spots designed for winter use. 


Welcome retreats

The Library Garden offers a landscape backdrop to the main collection room and Public Archive Reading room, and a peaceful breakout space within a grove of small trees. The Children’s Courtyard is a small shaded outdoor room within the Library for organised activities and free play. 


Shaded carpark 

Transplanted trees will offer immediate shade to the carpark on the old Police site. 


Shaded Square

A colourful shade canopy provides permanent shade between the old Town Hall Building and Library, and frames a gathering spot beside the children’s water play space. New trees, planting and a raised lawn on the opposite side of the Square make a cool afternoon rest spot. 


Landscape that collects and reuses water 

The new ‘dry creek bed’ between the western edge of the Library and the old Police site, helps sustain indigenous planting and also manage local flooding in storm events. 


Plants for an arid landscape

All planting will be suited to the extreme climate of Broken Hill and require minimal irrigation. 

Carpark trees will offer immediate shade with low risk of limb drop: - potentially Canary Island Palms, Pheonix canariensis or Kurrajongs, Brachychiton populneus (5m height minimum) 

The dry creek bed is vegetated with local native plants to screen the carpark from the Library and offer opportunities for learning: - potentially the Broughton Willow, Acacia salicina with an understorey of shrubs and grasses - 3 existing gum trees retained here subject to the arborist’s assessment, as they have some borer damage 

Planting along the Argent Street side of the Police Station will showcase the many local plants of the area and include bush tucker and medicinal species: - potentially the Quandong, Santalum acuminatum 

The Library Garden will have a silver canopy above a soft understorey of local shrubs and grasses. - potentially the Curly Mallee, Eucalytus gillii   


Simple heat reflecting pavements 

Robust terracotta and precast concrete pavers, and light-coloured concrete with various finishes, will pattern the outdoor spaces and reflect rather than store solar radiation. 


256 Argent Street, Broken Hill 2880  View Map

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