Sara Barker artwork on the side of the Bragg Building

Exploring the boundary between art and science

Last updated on 25 September 2020

A major sculpture has been installed on the side of the new Sir William Henry Bragg Building an engineering and physical sciences development at the University of Leeds.

The artwork, measuring seven metres by just over six metres, appears to levitate more than four metres above the ground.

By artist Sara Barker, the installation is made from light-weight welded aluminium and a variety of shapes, motifs and colours convey ideas linked to science and engineering – and make connections with Leeds as a former centre of the textile industry and as a creative city.

She has used iridescent paints inspired by research at the University, which allows parts of the structure to take on a different colour depending on the angle it is viewed from.

Ms Barker said: “It felt it was like a real opportunity to try something different in my work, a curve ball that might activate or completely transform the work in different lighting, while representing in some sense the powerful and creative crossovers between specialisms that happen all the time amongst academics and scientists in the building.

“I want the work to sit between the qualities of drawing, collage, textile, painting and sculpture, and its meaning and derivation to be correspondingly subjective and open to our interpretation.”

The installation is on the side of the new building that will house the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences from next year. The building is named after Sir William Henry Bragg whose pioneering research at the University in the early 1900s won a Nobel prize and unlocked some of the biggest discoveries in modern science.

Sculpture by Sara Barker on the Sir William Henry Bragg buiildingAs people walk around the sculpture, the symbols that represent that research are gradually revealed – the Bragg equation: nλ = 2 d sin θ.

The artwork is titled The Worlds of If – a reference to the possibilities that open up when scientists and engineers work together and share ideas. That philosophy of collaboration will underpin research in the new building, on topics such as the development of new materials, more energy-efficient computing devices and drug discovery. It will also house laboratories and teaching spaces.

Sir Alan Langlands, predecessor to the new Vice-Chancellor: Professor Simone Buitendijk, said:  “Sara Barker’s striking artwork is a vibrant reminder of the Nobel Prize winning contribution of the Braggs in ‘the analysis of crystal structures by means of X-rays’ and the power of science in shaping modern society.

“The Sir William Henry Bragg Building will provide state of the art facilities to support ground-breaking interdisciplinary research, spanning engineering, physical sciences and computing, and linking with colleagues in medicine and biology. The Bragg Centre for Materials Research will discover, create and design new materials which will translate to a wide range of industrial settings.

“Critically, this new complex will also provide creative spaces for students, ensuring that their research-based education is enriched by having access to cutting edge laboratories, workshops and digital facilities.”

The contribution of the Braggs to scientific research

Sir William Henry Bragg was the Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University from 1909 to 1915. He conducted research with his son, William Lawrence Bragg.

The Braggs had discovered that a beam of X-rays is diffracted or bends as it passes through crystals including large biological molecules. That research not only led to the Bragg equation but also a technique to investigate atomic and molecular structure known as X-ray crystallography.

Nearly 40 years after the Braggs received the Nobel prize, X-ray crystallography became part of the scientific investigations that revealed the double-helix shape of DNA and revolutionised the understanding of molecular biology.

Artist Sara Barker said: “I wanted to make a connection to Bragg from the outset, given the historical and continued importance of his crystallographic research.”

Significance of the Braggs’ research

Dr Kersten Hall, a Visiting Fellow at the University, is both a scientist and historian of science.

He said: “The work that the Braggs did here was massively significant. To date, 28 Nobel prizes have been won using that technique that they developed – X-ray crystallography. Thanks to that method, scientists have been able to work out the shape of medically important compounds such as the antibiotic Penicillin and the hormone insulin.

“But perhaps most famously at all, their method of X-ray crystallography helped scientists to unravel the structure of DNA, the genetic molecule and its helical structure which explains how it passes on genetic information from one generation to the next.”

Sara Barker trained at the Glasgow School of Art, Painting department in 2003, where she now teaches. She currently has a solo exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery until the end of September 2020. Her forthcoming solo exhibition at Cample Line, Dumfriesshire, opens in October 2020.


Car Park

Changes to parking on campus

Last updated on 6 October 2020

From 7 September, free parking on campus will come to an end and a temporary permit system will be introduced. If you plan to park on campus or hold an existing permit, please follow this guidance.

For colleagues planning their commute to campus, we are enhancing active travel provisions, giving advice on the public transport options available in Leeds and offering individual travel planning where required. Head to the commuting to campus page to learn more about your different travel and commuting options.

Parking on campus

As we enter period two of our approach to planning the return to campus, free parking on campus during core hours will come to an end from 7 September 2020 (you can read more about our approach in the email sent to all colleagues on 4 June).
As many colleagues will continue to work from home, a new temporary interim permit system will be introduced for those who do require parking. These arrangements are expected to continue whilst social distancing measures remain in force (expected to be until at least the end of 2020).

Key changes to parking for staff from 7 September
  • Free parking during core hours (7am – 5pm, Monday – Friday) will end at 7am Monday 7 September. Free staff parking outside of these core hours will continue as usual.
  • All staff who are required to work on campus and would like to park will need to hold a new interim parking permit, or pay the new daily parking rate of £5. You can apply for a new interim permit on the ParkIT webpage (please note: to access the ParkIT website off campus, you need to log in via the Virtual Windows Desktop).
  • As many existing permit holders will not be working on campus, all existing permits remain suspended and payments will not be restarted.
  • Blue Badge holders are not affected by these changes and will continue as usual. If you require accessibility support, email the car parking team
  • Reserved bays will be available in the multi-story car park for staff arriving after 9.30am. These will be clearly marked and anyone parking in these spaces between 6am – 9.30am risk receiving a parking charge notice.

Interim permit

To support our plans to gradually reopen campus, we are introducing a new interim parking permit for staff which will be valid from 7 September until social distancing measures are lifted.

  • In order to obtain an interim permit, you must apply online via the via the ParkIT webpage (To access the ParkIT website off campus, you need to log in via the Virtual Windows Desktop).
  • Everyone who applies for a permit will receive one and all permits will be automatically allocated following completion of the application form.
  • The number of applications will be continuously monitored and the allocation process reviewed if demand becomes too high. Any changes will be communicated directly to permit holders and all staff via the coronavirus website and all staff eNewsletters.
  • All permits issued within the interim period are for this period only and will not affect applications or be carried forward beyond this.
  • Interim permits cover a minimum of one month and will be automatically renewed on a monthly basis. They can be cancelled by emailing the car parking team.

Car parking charges

The cost of the interim permit is based on salary and will be deducted through University payroll monthly as detailed below:

  • Salary: up to £24,461 = £18pcm
  • Salary: £24,461.01 upwards = £25pcm
  • Apply for a permit now using the ParkIT webpage (To access the ParkIT website off campus, you need to log in via the Virtual Windows Desktop). If you are unable to apply online then please contact you line manager or emailing the car parking team for assistance

Please note:

  • Interim permits will operate under the existing parking permit terms of use which can be viewed on the car parking website.
  • Postgraduate students and researchers are not eligible for an interim permit as the deductions are taken through the University payroll.
  • No parking will be available for students during core hours (7am – 5pm, Monday – Friday).

Existing annual permit holders

As an existing permit holder your permit will continue to be suspended and you will not be charged any annual deductions throughout this period. All current 2020 permit discs will not be valid for parking on campus from 7 September.

To park on campus from 7 September you must either:

  • apply for an interim permit on the ParkIT webpage (To access the ParkIT website off campus, you need to log in via the Virtual Windows Desktop); or
  • pay for day parking.
    We are unable to support car sharing applications at this time.

Existing motorcycle permit holders

All existing permits are being cancelled from 7 September 2020, and anyone who wants to re-apply for a motorcycle permit can do so via the ParkIT webpage (please note, you can only access this link through the Virtual Windows Desktop).
Free parking on campus ends at 7am on the 7 September and a valid permit will then be required.
Motorcycle permits are being cancelled to ensure that staff who are working from home and don’t need to park on campus are not required to pay their annual permit deductions.

Daily parking and visitors

A new daily parking rate of £5 applies to infrequent staff users parking on campus. This is available by collecting a QR code from the barrier on Woodhouse Lane between 8am – 4pm. Please bring your staff ID card with you. Spaces will be allocated on a first come first served basis.
Visitor parking will be available at a cost of £7 per day and must be booked using the ParkIT webpage.

Contact us

If you have any questions on car parking at the University then please visit the car parking webpage or get in touch with