Bristol Cathedral Choir School: Fiat Lux (let there be light)

Ulf Pedersen, Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light), 2014. Photo © Jamie Woodley, courtesy of the artist and Bristol Cathedral Choir School.


Bristol City Council is currently in the process of completing a number of new schools in the City under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. Included in this series is Bristol Cathedral Choir School, situated in the heart of Bristol's historic centre.


As part of the development Bristol City Council commissioned artist Ulf Mark Pedersen to create a new artwork within the school building, working closely with the school development team, comprising the school head, staff, pupils, contractor, project architect and other stakeholders.

Pedersen began work in 2010 following a selection process that included pupils from the schools, the art teacher, trustee and head. The work, which was completed in Summer 2014 after an extended period of reserach and development, is a direct response to the architecture of the new school building which was designed by Nicholas Hare Architects.

For Pedersen, his immediate response on viewing the proposed site was the realisation that due to the orientation of the new build, there would be a distinct lack of direct sunlight into the building. His response has been to facilitate a continual beam of sunlight directly into the central stair core situated on the north-east façade of the building; referencing both the biblical connotation’s and indeed the schools new theatre space.

Working with a team of engineers closely affiliated with Bristol University, a heliostat was designed to track the path of the sun and reflect a constant beam through a skylight, down 3 floors into the core of a spiral staircase. Located on the schools roof, the art work comprises of a heliostat, and a fixed mirror above which hovers over the circular roof-light above the staircase. A third element, a data feed, is located in the school and can be accessed via a web url from any terminal, allowing students to view and monitor the heliostat on the roof and data related to the position of the sun.

Ulf Mark Pedersen

Often architectural in scale Ulf’s work transforms the act of looking into a physical experience. Visitors to venues that he has worked with, frequently find themselves immersed in a sensational play of light and colour, as almost through a kind of light based alchemy the space metamorphoses into something unique and magical.

In addition to working closely with the raw materials of the site, Ulf uses light and colour as his essential tools, often combining these natural or artificial elements with the new architectural forms he has designed. His practice exploits both hi and lo-fi technologies and aims to highlight the poetic potential of place.

Known for his work with the ground-breaking Power Plant Event, amongst many other commissions.

Bristol Cathedral Choir School

BCCS is Bristol’s oldest school, tracing its origins back to the 12th century when monks at St Augustine’s Abbey provided an education for their choristers. After Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the Abbey Church became Bristol Cathedral and the school was re-established in the Abbey buildings as an Henrician Foundation in 1542. The School is a Church of England Academy with a distinctive Christian ethos.

  • Commissioner

    Bristol City Council

  • Produced by

    Bristol City Council

  • Partners

    Building Schools for the Future (BCC, Skanska, LEP)

  • Supported by

    Building Schools for the Future (BCC, Skanska, LEP)