'Camera Obscura' vision for Cambridge landmark


Issam Kourbaj, artist in residence at Christ's College, University of Cambridge, has proposed a project designed to recreate a planned 16th century spire designed for Great St Mary's Church, housing a 'camera obscura' to provide visitors with panoramic views of Cambridge's spaces and skyline.

The talk will be part of the 'Spotlight on Science' lecture series at the Cambridge Science Festival and will be held on March 16.

Called the 'EyeCone project', it is based on plans by Matthew Parker, the 16th century Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge and Archbishop of Canterbury, to add a dramatic 80 foot spire to the famous 15th century church.

The Camera Obscura - a device to capture, through an arrangement of lenses and mirrors, a clear image of the views all around the tower - will be placed within the hollow cone of his new spire and the image projected on a large screen within a darkened viewing-chamber. The spire will be built from lightweight modern materials rather than the original planned stone, and be a temporary feature of the church, with the possibility of being lifted off intact and used educationally on a new site.

Issam Kourbaj says: "This project connects a magical experience of the working of light with the re-awakening of a historic architectural inspiration. It gives visitors the chance to see a state-of-the-art Camera Obscura in action, and discover the fabric of Cambridge and its nearby geography as if through an angel's eye."

For the EyeCone project to become a reality, it needs the support of local businesses and individuals.

Issam Kourbaj will discuss the proposed project in detail as a lecture at the Cambridge Science Festival.

The Cambridge Science Festival is the UK's largest free festival of scientific events and will be held 15-26 March 2006 in and around the University of Cambridge. There is a wide range of events for children and adults of all ages.

Celebrity mathematician and University of Cambridge graduate Carol Vorderman will be opening the 2006 Cambridge Science Festival, and delivering an inaugural talk for a family audience on Saturday 18 March.

The Science Festival provides people of all ages the opportunity to explore science through hands-on activities and talks hosted by people who study or work with science, engineering and technology.

The first 'Science Weekend' will be held 18-19 March, when many of the laboratory tours, demonstrations and hands-on activities will take place. Vorderman will open up the Science weekend on Saturday, March 18 in the Courtyard, Downing Site, Downing Street, Cambridge. A second 'Science on Saturday' event takes place on March 25, with further Open Days at Physics, Astronomy, and Maths.

The Festival will also continue its 'Spotlight on Science' lecture series, which will include environmentally-focused lectures such as 'Climate Change Begins at Home' and 'Priorities for People and Planet', as well as health and technology lectures 'Autism and the Extreme Male Brain' and 'The Mathematics of Luck, Risk and Gambling'.

  • The lecture will be held on Thursday, 16 March from 6-7 pm at the Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue.

  • The proposed spire will reach a height of 172 feet, complementing King's and St John's Chapels on the city skyline.

  • Issam Kourbaj's work can be found at http://www.issamkourbaj.co.uk/

  • Now in its 13th year, the Cambridge Science Festival hosts over 100 events and is one of National Science Week's major initiatives. Its aim is to interest school children and adults in the scientific research going on throughout the University, and to encourage school pupils to consider studying science in the future. The events also provide the general public with the chance to ask questions of researchers at the University of Cambridge and for scientists to engage with the public on issues of interest and concern.

    The full programme of the events is available on the festival's website www.cambridgescience.org. Interested parties can also call the information line on 01223 766766. Those interested in any of the events that require booking, should book soon due to some venues' space limitations.

    The 2006 Cambridge Science Festival is sponsored by Cambridge University Press, The Technology Partnership, Microsoft Research, the Vodafone UK Foundation, Science Magazine and Oracle. Supporters of the Festival include Cambridge Evening News, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Q103.


    For more information, contact:

    1. Karen Dean, Office of Communications University of Cambridge Tel: 07774 017 464; email: karen.dean@admin.cam.ac.uk

    2. Nicola Buckley Cambridge Science Festival Co-ordinator University of Cambridge Tel: 01223 764069; email: nicola.buckley@admin.cam.ac.uk

    3. Issam Kourbaj Email: i@IssamKourbaj.co.uk

    Reproduced courtesy University of Cambridge Press Office
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