Assemble, The Cloud, 2016. Photo © Max McClure, courtesy of Bristol City Council and Arnolfini.

Turner Prize winners unveil ‘The Cloud’, a new artwork piece at Bristol’s Bridge Farm Primary School

A new piece of artwork by Assemble, the London-based architecture practice and 2015 Turner Prize Winners, has been unveiled at a Bristol primary school.

Commissioned by Bristol City Council and Arnolfini, the artwork titled ‘The Cloud’ has been two years in the making. The school children at Bridge Farm Primary School, where the artwork is located, have been involved throughout the process.

The Cloud is an architectural structure, which sits within a special landscaped courtyard in the heart of the school. Designed to be different from the rest of the school environment – Assemble have created a place for conversations, quieter activities and time out from the pressures and bustle of school life.

The Cloud is to be used by the school for one on one work, art and play therapy and other unexpected or impromptu activities. In order to facilitate this, the surrounding courtyard has been significantly remodelled to create a variety of small spaces for play and outdoor learning.

Councillor Estella Tincknell, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Culture, said:

“Having a place for children to take a moment out for quiet reflection can help to support emotional wellbeing and give children the space they need to flourish. Not every child responds in the same way to school, so it is important to look at the needs of those who might need extra support to get a good start in life, which is exactly what The Cloud seeks to do.

“It is encouraging to see artists taking a fresh look at how they can support school children to develop healthy, curious minds, and I’m especially pleased to see that pupils were involved with the build. Bristol is a Learning City where many organisations are creating opportunities to learn something new and this is a good example of how artwork can bring learning to life.”

As with other Assemble projects, the venture was highly collaborative; the copper cladding that encases the structure was handmade with the school children. In addition, the roof tiles were hand patinated by years three and four using household products such as coffee, lemons, window cleaners and plant-food, and patterned using things found in and around the school like gravel, sand, leaves and string. The wall tiles were beaten by hand by the children using different shape and weight implements to create variety in texture.

The rest of the building was created during term time, with children visiting site to see processes such as insulating and water proofing that normally remain hidden. The geometry of the building has been considered from child’s eye height and perspectives and spatial experience from a few feet off the ground. The surface is tactile as well as visual, and will gradually change in colour and texture over the years as the building grows older.

Geoff Mason, Head teacher of Bridge Farm said:

“The Cloud’ which can be seen through the skylight is a fantastic, beautiful and practical structure which has transformed a dull courtyard into an inspirational space. We wanted something that was completely different in design which would also evolve over time and we believe we have achieved this. It was a pleasure working with Assemble whose wonderful design delivered artistically and practically meeting the needs of both teachers and children”.

The Colud was designed and built by Assemble with Dan Halahan and Daniel Kisi and the children of Bridge Farm Primary School. As part of the landscape of the courtyard several new trees and plants were introduced, including birch, acers, ivy, and a wide variety of ferns, creating a green space for children to play and enjoy.

Amica Dall, founding member of Assemble commented:

“Different from other rooms in scale and character, the Cloud is a place for conversations, quieter activities and time out, a place that feels safe, distinct and apart from the pressures and tussle. The courtyard around it, and the variety of small spaces it makes are used for play and outdoor learning.”

Aldo Rinaldi, Senior Public Art Officer, commented:

“Assemble’s work at Bridge Farm has had a major impact on the school and pupils, returning a previously inaccessible courtyard in the heart of the school to use by all users. This space that is friendly and welcoming with several trees and plant species is an oasis in the school, and compliments other artworks that have also been developed for the school, including works by Nils Norman, and of course Banksy.”

Helen Davies, Director of Audience Engagement at Arnolfini Gallery said:

“In bringing together high calibre artists, school children and staff, The Cloud demonstrates how powerful collaborative, socially engaged artwork can be. It’s ambitious, curious and unique – everything that art should be. Bridge Farm have been fantastic to work with, we see this project as a spring board for a long term relationship.”