Artwork designed for contemplating nature installed at University of Bristol
11th August 2020
A spectacular installation by internationally renowned artist Luke Jerram is now on permanent display outside the main entrance of the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry.
The Palm Temple was originally commissioned by Sky Arts in Italy as a celebration of the 600th anniversary of Brunelleschi’s dome of Florence Cathedral (Duomo di Firenze) and was on public display in London during January and February of this year.
It has been generously donated to the University by Luke, who comes from Bristol, and follows previous successful collaborations including Gaia (2019) and the Museum of the Moon (2017) in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building and The Impossible Garden (2018) at the University’s Botanic Garden.
In February 2020 Luke was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bristol in recognition of his inspirational international art career.
The Palm Temple is based on a spiralling lamella dome structure. This dome is cut in half and the two halves placed in parallel, like two palms of each hand coming together in prayer.
While Florence Cathedral is a temple for contemplating God, this new artwork is designed for contemplating nature. Suspended in the apex of the dome is an ‘Extinction Bell’, which tolls once, 150 to 200 times a day, at random intervals, indicating the number of species lost worldwide every 24 hours.
This estimate of species loss is according to a 2007 UN Environmental Programme. 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. This includes research undertaken by the Cabot Institute for the Environment and the Urban Pollinators Project which is studying insect pollinators in urban habitats in the UK.
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.
People can enter the pavilion for contemplation. The artwork is made from cedar wood and references stained glass with its dichroic panelled windows. The floor is mirrored which reflects the dome above.
Connecting the sky and clouds with the ground, the Palm Temple will change minute by minute with the shifting weather patterns and time of day. At night, the artwork will be internally illuminated.
Luke said: “Living in Bristol for over 20 years, I’m always keen to contribute to the creative landscape of the city. After the presentation of the Palm Temple in London the artwork was looking for a permanent home. Like many of the artworks I’ve made in the past, I’m happy to give artworks away to cultural and educational institutions who might also allow the public to visit them.
“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.”
Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at the University of Bristol, added: “We are very excited to house the Palm Temple installation by Luke Jerram in the heart of our campus – and particularly grateful to Luke for donating this wonderful artwork to the University. We hope that it will provide joy and inspiration to our students, staff and visitors for years to come.”
Palm Temple is open to the public, but University of Bristol asks that any visitors please adhere to social distancing guidelines and only one person, or one family unit, physically enter the installation at any one time.