Luke Jerram, Palm Temple (2020)

Palm Temple. Artist: Luke Jerram Photo: Bob Pitchford

Palm Temple by Bristol artist Luke Jerram was originally commissioned by Sky Arts in Italy to be part of a television programme celebrating the 600th anniversary of Brunelleschi’s dome of Florence Cathedral (Duomo di Firenze) and was presented at Lewis Cubitt Square, London in January 2020.

The artwork was subsequently donated to the University of Bristol by the artist and is now on permanent display for the public to enjoy outside the Chemistry Department.

Inspired by Florence Cathedral the colourful dichroic panels reference the stained glass of a cathedral. From inside the structure, visitors are immersed in a changing experience as the surrounding light alters. The mirrored floor reflects the coloured panels but also draws attention to the sky, reflecting the clouds and changing weather above. The pavilion is illuminated from within at night.

Nature has come up with lots of solutions to many problems before and is full of innovation. I create artwork that’s inspired by nature and phenomena.

Luke Jerram


Portrait of Luke Jerram. Photo: Allesandro Gaja
Palm Temple. Artist: Luke Jerram Photo: Bob Pitchford
Palm Temple. Artist: Luke Jerram

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.

This artwork offers a space to contemplate our complex relationship with nature. Hanging from the apex inside the dome is an Extinction Bell. The Extinction Bell tolls once, 150-200 times a day, at random intervals, indicating the number of species lost worldwide every 24 hours. This estimate is according to a 2007 UN Environmental Programme (PDF, 167 kB)

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

The Palm Temple is inspired by nature and offers a space to reflect on humanity’s relationship with the environment.

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 Climate emergency.

Luke Jerram

Bristol based Luke Jerram has collaborated with the University of Bristol on several temporary projects, including Gaia, a seven-metre scale model of the Earth,  Museum of the Moon and the Impossible Garden, a body of work shown in the Botanic Garden in 2018.  In the summer of 2021 the University of Bristol hosted the UK premiere of Luke Jerram’s Mars exhibition in the iconic Great Hall, Wills Memorial Building.

Jerram’s multidisciplinary and collaborative practice involves the creation of sculptures, installations and live arts projects. Many of his artworks are in permanent collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Wellcome Collection in London. Jerram also tours his art installations to art festivals and museums.

In 2020 Luke was given an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bristol, made an Honorary Academician of the RWA and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Palm Temple was fabricated with CAD design and fabrication from Richard Stump and John Hall, and engineering analysis from Structural Solutions.

Location and access

University of Bristol Chemistry precinct, Cantock’s Close, Bristol BS8 1TS

Palm Temple is free to visit and open to all. It is permanently sited in the centre of a cobbled courtyard at the entrance to the School of Chemistry. It is open to visit every day of the year. Visitors are invited to step inside to fully experience the multi-coloured artwork. Openings at both ends of the sculpture allow for wheelchair access.

Further resources

Interview with Luke Jerram

Brunelleschi e le cupole del mondo: A short conversation with Luke Jerram, the artist behind the Palm Temple, the dome that introduces the documentary produced by Sky Arts about the most beautiful domes in history.

Timelapse video

Watch a timelapse of the Palm Temple being installed at the University of Bristol