The Palm Temple
In the chemistry department courtyard, a multi-coloured artwork offers a space to contemplate our complex relationship with nature.
The Palm Temple is by Bristol artist Luke Jerram and was commissioned for a television programme to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Brunelleschi’s Duomo di Firenze in Florence. The piece was exhibited in London in early 2020 before moving to its permanent home on the University of Bristol campus.
The cedar wood structure is formed of the two parts of a lamella dome: a flattened dome constructed with a criss-cross geometric pattern. The dome was cut in half and the two parts placed back together in parallel, like two palms coming together - giving the artwork its name, the Palm Temple.
Influenced by the Duomo, the dichroic panels reference the stained glass of a cathedral and offer a changing experience as the surrounding light alters. The mirrored floor reflects the coloured panels but also draws attention to the ground and sky at once, reflecting the clouds and changing weather above. The pavilion is illuminated from within at night.
Hanging from the apex inside the dome is the Extinction Bell. The bell tolls at random 150 to 200 times a day to denote the number of plant and animal species becoming extinct worldwide every 24 hours.
Rather than a place inspired by God like the Duomo, the Palm Temple is inspired by nature and offers a space to reflect on humanity’s relationship with the environment. Read more about the piece on Luke Jerram's website.
Luke has donated the Palm Temple artwork to the University, and it is now a permanent installation outside the main entrance to the chemistry department. Watch a timelapse of the Palm Temple installation.
Researching environmental challenges
Biodiversity loss is a theme within many areas of Bristol's research. The University houses the world-leading Cabot Institute for the Environment, a community of 600 academics, working in many different disciplines, who have joined together to address the environmental challenges we face. Read more about the Cabot Institute in our amazing story Climate emergency.
Art on campus
Luke Jerram has collaborated with the University on several of his works, including Gaia, a seven-metre scale model of the Earth, and Museum of the Moon. Both pieces were displayed to the public in the Great Hall of the University’s Wills Memorial Building.
Find out more
- Read the chemistry department's news story about the Palm Temple
- Watch an interview with Luke Jerram about the Palm Temple
- Watch the official Gaia Earth artwork film on YouTube
- Find out more about the Cabot Institute
- Watch the BBC's timelapse of the installation of the Palm Temple in London
Explore for yourself
If you're interested in this story, you might consider studying:
Discover more about the amazing stories happening at Bristol.
Find out more about Hollow, a sculpture inspired by conversations with Bristol biologists and constructued of 10,000 unique wood samples, including one from the world's oldest tree.