British artist Annie Cattrell created Atlas for the Queens Building extension for Bristol University’s Faculty of Engineering in 2017. The commission was produced by public art consultants Willis Newson.
The Queen’s Building houses the Departments of Aerospace, Civil and Mechanical Engineering, along with an interdisciplinary programme in Engineering Design.
Cattrell often works in dialogue with specialists in neuroscience, meteorology, engineering, psychiatry and the history of science. This cross-disciplinary approach has enabled her to learn in depth about these fields and informs her cutting-edge research. She is particularly interested in where art, science and the poetic meet.
The artist was asked to reflect and translate the ideas behind Engineering into an inspiring sculpture for the new Queen’s Building. The first phase of the commission included a period of engagement with academics, staff and students at the Faculty of Engineering, to actively understand the work of this dynamic faculty. This includes: structural and nonlinear dynamics, aerodynamics, earthquake engineering, soil mechanics, applied mechanics, water and environmental Engineering, and robotics (including the collaborative Bristol Robotics Laboratory).
To develop the concept Cattrell met with representatives from across the Engineering disciplines, from leading professors to student societies, from build project leaders to workshop technicians. The focus was on what Engineering really means to those who identify as Engineers, and the Faculty’s desire to reflect inclusivity, and how that might be encapsulated in a single artistic representation.
This engagement reflected back a particular understanding of Engineering as both invisible and fundamental, providing cross-border solutions and connections, and at its finest, demonstrating ‘effortless elegance’.
The deconstructed globes show the world itself as a feat of Engineering; the rods holding together the split land mass and water are a manifestation of both the communication and construction sides of Engineering.
My thoughts were to focus upon and highlight the immensity of water and how it interconnects without borders around the world. The land masses, in terms of continents, appear like a giant three dimensional jigsaw where edges once touched and met but now have drifted apart.
Atlas comprises two spheres which enlarge and reduce the landmasses and seas that comprise planet Earth. The concept presents ‘the globe as a reflection of engineering; as a way of measuring, apportioning and understanding the world’, Annie Cattrell.
Born in Glasgow, Annie Cattrell is a conceptual artist and tutor at the Royal College of Art and Reader in Fine Art at De Montfort University. She has created work for the Wellcome Trust, the Faraday Museum, V&A and Royal Scottish Academy among others.
She has undertaken many large-scale public art commissions for the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail; Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University and the Science Centre at Anglia Ruskin University.
Cattrell was recently Lead Artist at New Museum Site at Cambridge University and is currently working on a large-scale public commission for the new neuroscience facility at University College London.
Willis Newson is one of the UK’s leading arts and health consultancies. They use art to create positive health care environments and to connect communities and support individuals, building resilience and boosting wellbeing.
Willis Newson is passionate about the power of art to change cultures and bring people together.
Cannon Griffin Design
The fabrication of Atlas was carried out by Cannon Griffin Design, a London based design company dealing with all aspects of three dimensional and spatial design.
They specialise in timber frame buildings, interior design, furniture design, art fabrication and exhibition stand design.
Cannon Griffin Design also work with schools and colleges on specific creative development projects.
Location and access
- Google maps location: Queen’s Building, University Walk, Bristol, BS8 1TR
- What3words location: editor.engage.debate
The artwork is situated in the large glass atrium to the front of the Queen’s Building and is clearly visible from outside. The University hold some regular public events in the space, including Bristol Open Doors and Research Showcase. Please note that at all other times general access into the building is limited to those holding a University access UCard. If you do not hold a UCard and would like to arrange a visit please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.