The Artarmon Triangle

Paris is a long way from Sydney, but there are plenty of Eiffel Towers in the Sydney suburbs. On the lower north shore there are three – the television transmission towers collectively known as the Artarmon Triangle. These tall, red and white pyramids at Gore Hill, Artarmon and Willoughby have been sending out tv signals since their construction in the 1950s and 60s.

Artarmon Triangle 1

The transmission tower on the Pacific Highway is one of the few remains of the ABCTV complex, most of which was demolished in 2007. The fences are draped in advertisements for Gore Hill business precinct, but for now the site is just mounds of earth, the ABC building debris long since swept away. Things are going on in there though, a surveyor peers through a theodolite and under the tower gardeners push lawnmowers over the grass.

It stands out from its surroundings now, so it must have been even more striking when it was built in the 1950s. This was long before the neighbouring dark brick colossus of Royal North Shore Hospital was constructed and the highway was still mostly lined with houses. Sydney’s first official television broadcast – which began with Bruce Gyngell in front of a map of the world saying “Good Evening and welcome to television” – aired in 1956. The towers were a symbol of this new era of technology.

abc tower 1

Photo from ABC TV at Gore Hill in the Fifties website.

Perhaps because of its highway position this tower is the smartest of the three, its paint bright and lawns neat. Its Artarmon counterpart’s paint is peeling, and it is packed in among water reservoir tanks, a substation and an apartment block, which must get either the best, or worst, television reception in Sydney.

Tower 2

It stretches high up above the tree-lined streets below and the brick apartment buildings on Hampden Road. Like all the towers it is best appreciated from a distance. From the shopping strip across from Artarmon station with its endless variety of sandwich bars, the tower lifts your gaze skywards.

tower 2 artarmon

The third tower is the tallest and at 233 metres is the sixth highest structure in Sydney (the Eiffel Tower, by comparison, is 324 metres). It’s tucked away at the corner of the Channel 9 studios in Willoughby but is most often seen from the expressway below. It’s at the end of a dead-end street, surrounded by cyclone fencing with a warning against electromagnetic radiation on the fence to deter explorers.

tower 3

Apart from the roar of the traffic there’s little sound or movement. It’s hard to believe the tower is sending out signals across the city. Up close it’s a jigsaw puzzle of metal shapes, decorated with satellite dishes and flimsy stairwells for workers to ascend it. Beside it are cottages converted into offices for Channel 9, which have the odd character of homes where no one lives.

tower 3 house

Across the street there are signs in every front yard, protesting the proposed development on the Channel 9 site. There are plans to relocate Channel 9 and convert the site into a residential development and current residents object to the density and height of the proposed buildings. Although the Channel 9 buildings would be demolished under the plans, the transmission tower would stay.

The towers once signified a new era of technology, but times have changed. Unwanted televisions lie discarded on  footpaths across the city. Mobile phone transmission towers have appeared throughout the suburbs and the air is full of unseen signals. The analogue tv signals which have been broadcast for almost 60 years are to be switched off on December 3rd. Despite these changes the Artarmon Triangle towers remain, rising delicately into the sky from the suburbs below.

Twin Towers

Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 2.28.37 PM

14 Comments on “The Artarmon Triangle”

  1. Great insights into often overlooked communications infrastructure. I’m not sure if I would like to live within ‘the triangle’, for fear of disappearing one day and ending up inside a TV signal.

  2. Anne-Maree Prentice says:

    These are wonderful shots & stories Vanessa ! I knew this area pretty well during the late 70s & 80s, as my best friend used to work @ Gore Hill & we lived nearby for a few years. I used to visit my mate at work & we would often bring overseas visitors to live show recordings at the ABC studios ( free entertainment ). The ‘campus’ was such a hotch-potch of buildings ~ like any old institution, a cafeteria, gardens with sweet-peas & roses, old tin sheds, transport station/garages & the doormen ‘commissionaires’ – I think they were called, in full military style outfits with fancy caps & epaulets. The staff would have ‘twilight bbqs’ in the summer, in the flowering gardens ~ all glorious surroundings for the workers. These days, so many have to work in soulless, cost-effective buildings that have no real history ~ only gossip !

  3. Frank from Willoughby says:

    Very helpful article for a new Sydney resident with a curious 12 yo daughter. Although according to her research on Wikipedia (!) the Eiffel Tower is only 301 m. Thanks.

  4. David says:

    Channel 7 used to have their tower next to the ABC tower at Gore Hill. It was demolished in the 1970s. The tower next to Channel 9 is the second on that site. It was built in 1965 to replace the first one built in 1956 which was smaller in height.

  5. spammydan says:

    If you’re interested you can take a look inside the transmitter building, more specifically at the now decommissioned analogue TV transmitter.

  6. Stuart says:

    I had a girlfriend whose parents lived within the triangle (circa 2005) who asked me to look at their tv that always had reception problems (I worked for a tv retailer at the time). I figured out the problem was the signal getting picked up by their roof antenna was so massively strong it was overloading the set. In the end I pulled the antenna cable out of the wall and just taped it loose to the back of the tv – that 1 metre long antenna cable, plugged into the TV at one end and nothing at the other, cocooned inside a double-brick house, supposedly shielded so as to specifically NOT collect stray radio signals, was collecting enough signal on it’s own to get a perfect picture! Thereafter I did wonder what effect time spent at their house was having on my future prospects for children…

    • Lana says:

      Interesting to note a technical person being concerned about adverse health effects of radiofrequency radiation for which now there is a lot of evidence. Former Chief Medical Officer of Telstra Dr. Bruce Hocking led a study to investigate cancer risk around those 3 transmitter towers and found an increased risk of leukaemia around them over 20 years ago. Now you wouldn’t find anything because every house has internal RF transmitters – we no longer have negative control populations to compare with (everyone is exposed).

  7. Great post! If 9 owns the Willoughby tower and ABC own the gore hill tower, who owns the artarmon tower?

  8. Paul Limmer says:

    I am presuming you are enquiring about the tower on Mowbray Road Chatswood (diagonaly opposite the Great Northern Hotel). I am not sure if it still is but during the 1970’s it was owned by a joint venture 50% owned by Channel 7 and 50% owned by Channel 10. All of Sydneys’ TV could be transmitted from the one tower. If you are old enough you would remember Channel 7 used to have a transmission tower at Gore Hill beside the current Channel 2 tower. This tower position gave Channel 7 the greatest range of transmission of all TV stations in Sydney.

  9. richo65 says:

    The Willoughby tower sadly is due to be demolished in 2021 as part of the redevelopment of the Ch 9 site. It is only used as a back up when the Artarmon tower is out of action.

  10. Geof Lewis says:

    Work started on 7th August 2021 to disassemble the Willoughby Tower (Ch9)

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