An amazing building


Moonrise on the site of the Australian Opal Centre, Three Mile opal field, Lightning Ridge.

Visitors will approach the Australian Opal Centre across the historic Three Mile opal field at Lightning Ridge, where Bimble Box and Wild Orange trees, ancient machines and mounds of pink and cream opal dirt create a sparsely beautiful outback landscape that echoes with a century of opal mining history.

There, they will discover a remarkable building by acclaimed architects Glenn Murcutt and Wendy Lewin – a building recessed into, and protected by, the earth.

The complex will contain magnificent permanent exhibitions, education and learning facilities, a cinema, gallery spaces, a spectacular opal vault, research library, scientific laboratory and underground gardens.

100 metres long and two storeys deep, the Australian Opal Centre building will use a combination of ancient and cutting-edge modern technologies to provide its own energy, water, light and fresh air…without being connected to mains power or water.


Architects Glenn Murcutt and Wendy Lewin underground at Lightning Ridge during a research trip for the Australian Opal Centre.

The large roof will collect rainwater and solar energy. Water will be stored underground and recycled for use on the Gondwanan garden. Gradients of air temperature and pressure will drive passive ventilation systems, not unlike those used by opal miners to keep fresh air flowing through their mines.

After entering the building, visitors will walk towards daylight pouring in at the end of a long, gently descending ramp. There, they will find that they are suspended in the side of an open-cut mine, with the geological strata of opal-bearing country exposed before them.

Then around the corner and down again, to exhibitions of opal, fossils, mining machinery and the faces and legends of the opal fields. And a cool underground Gondwanan garden containing trees – Wollemi pines! – ferns, cycads and other descendants of the plants that lived 110 million years ago, when dinosaurs walked the place we now know as Lightning Ridge.


Work in progress: drawings of the Australian Opal Centre.

This is the vision for the Australian Opal Centre’s Three Mile building. Innovations in design, materials and processes will generate new paradigms for the future of public architecture in semi-arid Australia. The building design will conserve water and energy, minimise running costs and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from around Australia and the world.

Want to know more about the team designing the Australian Opal Centre building? Click here.

Or to see more photos of our site, click here.

In 2013 the site of the Australian Opal Centre was excavated, creating a great void in which the new building will be constructed. This exciting milestone was achieved with funds from the NSW Government; Lightning Ridge Police Bush Safari, which committed $30,000 over 3 years to the capital works project; and the people of Australia and the world, who sent donations and gave through a crowdfunding campaign to which you can still contribute

The Australian Opal Centre is now amassing the capital required to complete construction. Visionary benefactors are welcome.

If you would like to get involved please call President, Rebel Black on 0419 639 380.