Lightning Ridge Studio
86530 SPR 2017 Spatial Agency


Traveling to Lightning Ridge in September 2017, students will undertake participatory fieldwork focused on reestablishing through design a regional art gallery in the centre of Lightning Ridge.

Traditional owners of the land around Lightning Ridge are the Yuwaalaraay people. The name “Lightning Ridge” is said to have originated when, in the 1870s, some passers by found the bodies of a farmer, his dog, and 200 sheep which appear to have all been struck down by lightning. The Lightning Ridge area is a world-renowned centre for the mining of black opals and other opal gemstones. It is a wild town in north-western New South Wales, Australia, in Walgett Shire, near the southern border of Queensland.

With a strong emphasis on participatory design, radical site specificity, and creative practice, this studio explores how architecture and spatial design can make positive contributions to the conditions and wellbeing of the community, cultural practices, and environments. Focused on the community of Lightning Ridge and the unfortunate event that saw the John Murray Art Gallery burn down in 2017, this studio aims to understand, design, and interrogate the agency of space as a relational condition for community revitalisation and urban regeneration.

The artist, John Murray, has lived and worked in the mining town for 35 years. Your brief is to design a temporary solution to running the community gallery until it can be rebuilt. Our studio will explore design opportunities for these temporary arrangements whilst questioning – and expanding – the role of regional galleries within regional communities.

Note: To enrol into this subject you must be willing to travel to Lightning Ridge between the 3rd – 8th of September.


John Murray’s art gallery and a newsagency were destroyed by a fire in Lightning Ridge, Image by Noni Carroll