In 2015, construction finished on the largest solar farm in the southern hemisphere. The Broken Hill Solar Farm in New South Wales comprises over 670,000 solar panels, and on average produces enough energy for approximately 17,000 homes in the state each year.
Such a landmark achievement warrants at the very least an opportunity to visit it. Enter power company AGL, who partnered with the Broken Hill Art exchange to create a competition to design a viewing platform overlooking the gargantuan field of solar panels.
Submission to the competition commenced in January, and was open to a range of industries – artists, architects, designers and engineers. Four finalists were invited to present their work to a jury in Broken Hill; a process from which architecture graduate Tim Bauer emerged victorious.
The former University of Queensland architecture student – who now works for Hassell – won $10,000 for his “Earth and Sky” viewing platform design. The platform sits on a square rammed earth base – a reference to Broken Hill’s long history as a mining community – and consists of a mirrored steel façade.
The façade is arranged in a triangular shape to sit on top of the square rammed earth façade, creating a striking geometric juxtaposition. The mirrored slats that make up the face of the platform reflect both the surrounding desert and the sky above (hence, “Earth and Sky” as the project title) to create a slightly disorienting effect.
“The contrast of the solar panels against the natural desert environment is built upon as [the] mirrors […] distort what is natural and what is man-made,” says Bauer.
From the interior of the viewing platform, visitors will be able to see through the spaces in the mirrored slats. To allow a further unobstructed view, two ends of the triangular form are left free from slats and open out onto expansive views of the desert and Broken Hill solar plant.
Bauer’s design uses simple geometric forms and materials with relevance to the surrounding landscape to ensure the hero of the experience remains the solar panel itself – which is, after all, what a viewing platform should do.
Construction on Bauer’s winning entry is slated to commence soon. Until 23 April, all entries to the competition are available for viewing at the Broken Hill Art Exchange.