Material World Light Boxes

Material World City of Sydney Railway Square after restoration


As part of the 1999 upgrade to Railway Square, the Council for The City of Sydney commissioned internationally recognised artist and Sydney resident Merilyn Fairskye,,  to design a public art installation for the space. The result, Material World, is comprised of three components: light towers and windscreens aboveground in the square itself, and a set of four light boxes in the Devonshire Street Tunnel below the square, Each of the four lightboxes represents one of the four elements— Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. O’Sullivan Conservation was engaged by the City of Sydney to undertake a conservation clean, fitting repair, dust mitigation and lighting upgrade.

Conservation works commenced with a full condition assessment of each panel in the four light boxes, noting levels of surface contaminants and dust, lighting functionality, damage and fading to the transparencies, and the operation of various fittings such as door stops and locks. Once the condition assessment was complete each case was vacuumed, and all debris cleared. The transparencies and doors were then brush vacuumed. The door glazing cleaned, and the aluminium door frames hand-cleaned and polished. Loose acrylic panels were repositioned and secured, and all detached securing brackets were re-fixed. Non-functional door locks were identified during the condition assessment; these were removed and replaced with new custom-modified locking mechanisms keyed to match. O’Sullivan Conservation provided the City of Sydney with a report detailing the treatment performed and the detailed condition assessment in preparation for the second stage of works.

The second stage of works included a full lighting upgrade, in which the original fluorescent fixtures and wiring was removed and replaced with an energy-efficient LED lighting system matched to the original in colour and luminosity. The replacement of the fluorescent tubes with LED modules not only results in an increased time between replacement by 8 years, but also should see a saving of approximately $88,452 recognised by the City of Sydney over a ten-year period.

As part of this upgrade all 70 acrylic panels were carefully removed, the interior of the light boxes vacuumed and cleaned, with the rear of the acrylic panels were cleaned before reinstatement. Finally, door seals were fitted to the glaze doors to mitigate future dust ingress.

Following the completion of works, O’Sullivan Conservation provided a second treatment report complete with technical specifications, along with recommendations for future care and maintenance of the light boxes.

Railway Square Sydney lighting upgrade LUX levels
City of Sydney Railway Square Sydney LED modules
Material World City of Sydney LUX levels
Railway Square Sydney lighting upgrade LUX levels
Material World City of Sydney Railway Square conservation clean
Material World Railway Square Sydney lighting upgrade
Material World City of Sydney Railway Square after restoration
Material World City of Sydney Railway Square after conservation

Have a question?

O'Sullivan Conservation we provide expert conservation and preservation services that maintain and sustain cultural heritage. If you have a question about a project, give us a call on 0419 380 065 or alternatively fill out the enquiry form and we will get back to you promptly.

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O’Sullivan Conservation acknowledges that we operate and function on the lands of the Darkinjung people.

We respect and honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on this land and commit to building a brighter future together.

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