New permanent sculpture unveiled in the Bristol Uni chemistry courtyard

It is SO insta worthy, and it’s staying for good

A new art installation by internationally renowned artist Luke Jerram has been donated to the university and put on permanent display in the chemistry courtyard.

The installation is called ‘Palm Temple’, and was originally commissioned by Sky Arts in Italy for the 600th anniversary of Brunelleschi’s dome of Florence Cathedral.

This comes after Luke, originally from Bristol, was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bristol in February this year.

The Palm Temple changes throughout the day depending on weather and light. Photo: Luke Jerram

The installation is based on a spiralling lamella dome structure, cut in half, symbolic of two hands coming together in prayer.

Aside from being completely insta worthy, the artwork is also designed to raise awareness of climate change. It features an “Extinction Bell” inside which tolls 150-200 times a day to indicate the numbers of species lost worldwide in 24 hours.

At the opening today, Luke said: “It has a gloomy message, but at the same time it’s quite up-lifting. I quite like how its geometry lifts the architecture around it.”

The structure will be illuminated at night. Photo: Luke Jerram

The university said: “The Extinction Bell raises awareness of the issue of biodiversity loss, makes audible events which are invisible to us, and which are occurring simultaneously across the world in multiple habitats.

“This theme reflects the work of a number of researchers at the University of Bristol, particularly in the fields of environmental science and ecology.

“The University of Bristol was also the first UK university to declare a climate emergency in April 2019, reaffirming our strong and positive commitment to take action on climate change.”

Luke Jerram speaking at the opening in front of the Palm Temple

The Palm Temple is also also interactive. It has a mirrored floor inside which reflects the stained glass dome above, and viewers are encouraged to go inside and “contemplate” (or take pics using the hashtag #palmtemple).

Luke said: “With several other artworks by high profile artists already located in the nearby Royal Fort Gardens of the University, the courtyard of the School of Chemistry seemed like a good site for the sculpture.

“Placed into this context I’m hoping the geometry and ideas behind the sculpture may also resonate with and be appreciated by the staff and students of the School.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Judith Squires said that the university hope the structure will bring “joy and inspiration” to students and staff for years to come.

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