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John Rylands University, Manchester

Artist's Statment +/-

“Totem”

In approaching this project I wanted to create a glass installation which would embody the spirit of the John Rylands Library, reflect and celebrate its many collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives, and help to create a sense of place.
The visual language used in the design is modern in character, employing glass, steel and light in a carefully controlled palette of colours. The design, called “TOTEM” alludes to the wide diversity of subject matter contained within the Library’s collection, and to the original listed building which adjoins the new entrance wing by utilizing a vernacular colour scheme of stone whites, bronze, sandstone pinks, oak browns together with pale blues and olive greens to create a monumental, sculptural piece which acts as a visual conduit between the old and new buildings.
The design includes some of the internationally famous collections within the Library, such as the St John Fragment, the earliest piece of New Testament in existence bought by the library in 1920.

Other references include work on the first text book on the human anatomy by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), Caxton’s printers device, the Gutenberg Bible, The John Rylands Library bookplate designed by C.W. Sherborn in 1894, The Elements (1808), and a sculptural reference to the original building in the form of the Green Man. The original neo-Gothic Library building designed by Basil Champneys is iconic in architectural design and is heralded as one of the finest libraries in the world. This new glass installation directly relates to the original building by utilizing the colour scheme established by Basil Champneys. The contemporary design compliments and harmonizes with the rectilinear idiom of the new entrance wing, in particular with the array of recessed windows which greet the viewer on entry to the atrium, and echoes the use of glass and stainless steel to be found in the balustrades of the staircase.

totem / toh-tuhm/.n. a natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual meaning and adopted by it as an emblem.