I took this unique photo of Council House in Perth, Australia, early on a summer evening. I was trying to capture the amazing façade of the building being bathed in multiple colours and continuously changing. This colourful display, on one of Perth’s most recognisable buildings, now takes place from sunset till dawn every day of the year. These magical lighting effects help to bring the building alive at night, encouraging reactivation of the city centre by drawing increased numbers of visitors from nearby Perth hotels back into the city in the evening.
Heritage Perth, an independent, not-for-profit organisation set up to promote Perth’s heritage, has developed the project “Light Up Perth” to create an imaginative and sustainable façade lighting schemes for significant buildings within the City of Perth. Using energy efficient equipment, Light Up the City provides a spectacular lighting show that brings important buildings to life at night, helping to reaffirm the Perth’s title of ‘City of Light’.
In order to achieve a façade lighting scheme whose design can be changed at the tap of a computer keyboard, over 20,000 diodes have been installed on the famous structural ‘Ts’ of Council House. Using such equipment has made it possible to light a building using a fraction of the energy previously required for the same purpose. With the assistance of the State’s Sustainable Energy Development Office the scheme is intended to have the minimum possible environmental impact. The lighting specification developed gives up to 500% efficiencies over conventional façade lighting systems.
Council House is widely recognised throughout Australia as one of the finest examples of 1960s ‘minimalist modern’ office buildings in the country and was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on 25 March 1963.
At the end of 1992, Perth City Council announced its intention to move out of Council House to make way for asbestos contamination to be removed. This announcement ushered in five years of controversy and extensive public debate over the future of the building. In October 1993, the State Government released the Perth Central Precinct Area Policies Review, which featured a ‘Civic Precinct’ or ‘Central Perth Heritage Precinct’. This proposal called for the demolition of Council House and the establishment of public gardens on the site.
The media prominently covered the public debate that ensued. Those supporting the demolition focused primarily on the perceived ugliness of the place and its supposed intrusion on a ‘heritage’ precinct of 19th-century structures and gardens. Those in favour of retention spoke of the importance of the place as a fine demonstration of Post-War Modernist architecture. Eventually, in 1995, a newly elected Perth City Council reviewed the demolition order and a year later approved refurbishment of the building.
Thankfully the building was saved and with the recent façade lighting project it has cemented its place as one of the most recognizable buildings in the city, a highlight of any tour of Perth.