Artwork commissioned for science centre

Abingdon School’s new science centre will feature a three-storey sculpture celebrating the three main branches of science

A sculpture standing 10m tall and spanning the three floors of Abingdon School’s new science centre, which opens later this year, has been commissioned from sculptor Matthew Lane Sanderson. Designed to combine art and science, the sculpture, made possible through a donation from a former pupil, will be the centrepiece of the new building. 

“Standing as tall as a three-storey house and over a ton in weight, this sculpture could be considered big!” says Matthew. “Whilst its purpose and obvious presence will be clear, it will also hold some secrets. Semi-transparent and with no solid volumes, there are some conceptual ‘keys to life’ within the structure and discernible for those who are prepared to find them. By identifying these keys and linking them to each other, I hope all who visit the science centre may enjoy both the visual and cerebral challenge presented for years to come. It is my aim, not merely to decorate a building, but to inspire many generations of pupils to take up the challenges of science at Abingdon.”

The sculpture, which is to be installed by the end of the year, will rise through the stairwell depicting biology, then physics and finally chemistry on each of the corresponding floors. Made from recycled zinc-coated steel and enamel, the artwork illustrates a range of scientific themes from nuclear fusion to the tree of life. Beginning with biology on the ground floor, the piece combines the millions of species on earth, the root network of a tree and lightning and plasma courses. The middle section becomes physics with a sculptural interpretation of the Tokamak fusion reactor and the top floor is chemistry represented by a canopy of diamond inspired by the structure of graphene.

“This entirely hand-crafted totem will champion the three sciences,” continues Matthew. “As you go up the stairs in the building it will reveal a fresh perspective as you look up and down at the artwork.”

Abingdon School’s head Felicity Lusk adds: “It is a very rare and very special opportunity to be able to create something truly beautiful that will be a legacy to the school and become part of Abingdon’s remarkable history. It will be an inspiration to all who see it. We are very grateful to Martin Iredale and family, whose donation has helped to make this possible.”

Speaking about making the donation, Martin says: “When I joined Abingdon in 1951, headmaster James Cobban had just opened the school’s first dedicated science building and so it seems most fitting for my family to contribute to the new science centre, specifically by commissioning the sculpture, brilliantly conceived by Matthew Lane Sanderson and matching in every way Felicity Lusk’s exciting vision for the building.”

Matthew’s design was chosen from 63 applications. Indeed, 63 is an auspicious number for the school which was endowed by John Roysse in 1563 on his 63rd birthday when he intended the school to have 63 free scholars in a schoolroom that was 63ft long. Current pupils from the school will be involved in the creation of the sculpture in workshops run by the sculptor.

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