Anthony Basheer, Telstra Tower.

Telstra Tower

The elegant Tower on the summit of Black Mountain has won two awards for outstanding design.

The structure rises over 195 metres above the mountain summit and consists of a self-supporting reinforced concrete circular shaft, which carries three levels of technical equipment for radio-telephone purposes, as well as two open and two enclosed levels for public use. The Tower has very sophisticated lightning strike protection. All reinforcing steel is tied together, as are stainless steel railings which earth 30 metre copper rods drilled into the mountain. The 90 tonne steel mast is socketed into the concrete Tower and is designed to sway one and a half metres from’ the centre.

The concrete shaft terminates at the 132.3 metre level and from this point the Tower becomes an open lattice steel structure which supports antennas for television and other services. The podium from which the Tower rises, provides access and amenities for visitors at lower ground and ground floor level. Space for television and FM radio broadcasting, other engineering services and car parking is accommodated within the two floors below ground level.

The three floors of accommodation for business sales and radio communication facilities are located between the 30.5 metre and 42.7 metre levels providing space for broadband communication dishes, platforms, relay equipment, equipment for mobile services, battery plant, air conditioning plant and television bearer switching, as well as broadcast station monitoring facilities.

The public floors situated between the 54 metre and 66.1 metre levels, consist of one floor containing a restaurant with a revolving platform, one floor containing a Coffee Shop/Kiosk plus an enclosed viewing gallery, and two floors of open viewing.

The Tower shaft is designed to sway 1.5 meters

History of the Tower

Telstra Tower was officially opened on May 15, 1980 by the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser. Built on the summit of Black Mountain Canberra, it soon became known to the locals as Black Mountain Tower.

Telstra Tower was originally named Telecom Tower, however locally it was simply known as Black Mountain Tower. The name Black Mountain dates back to survey maps issued as early as 1832. Whilst the mountain is formed of early sedimentary rock (most surrounding mountains are igneous ie. produced by volcanic heat) the term “Black” most likely derives from the thickness of the dry sclerophyll vegetation.

The mountain, predominantly quartz impregnated sandstone was, according to historical records, first climbed by white men on 8/12/1820. It is said that Charles Throsby-Smith and james Vaughn used it as a vantage point in an effort to locate the Murrumbidgee River.

Black Mountain is a sensitive and stunning part of the Canberra environment, a national park of significant interest in the ecological world with its unique collection of flora and fauna. The Tower was clearly going to be a land mark which some people felt would dominate other aesthetic Canberra structures. As time progressed a feeling of outrage and vigorous protest against the project was evident among some people. Protests against the Tower on aesthetic and ecological grounds were strongly voiced during the earlier stages of the approval procedures, and at the various hearings which included a lengthy Supreme Court case.

The Tower saga started in April 1970 when Telecom asked the Department of Housing and Construction to carry out a feasibility study in relation to a tower on Black Mountain, accommodating both communication services and facilities for visitors. The planning of the Tower was carried out by the Department of Housing and Construction while the actual building itself, was the responsibility of Concrete Constructions. The impressive stainless steel work, was by William H. Wilson of Sydney.

The National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) held a unique responsibility for the development of Canberra. Every new structure required their specific approval. The planning skill of the NCDC was reflected in the beauty of the City. Their longstanding authority over the City development had never been seriously challenged. Thus the public clash which ultimately developed between Telecom and the NCDC over the Tower design, was an unfortunate affair for both parties.

Apart from being important as the transmitting station for Canberra television services and FM broadcasting services, and as a base station for other radio communication facilities, Telstra Tower is a key station in trunk communications for Canberra, and an important node in the intercapital broadband network. It is also important in respect of television relaying, catering for up to 5 simultaneous interstate relays as well as national regional relays from Sydney and Melbourne and relays originating in Canberra.

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