College of Science & Engineering

Ideas: KB101 Art Commission

Artwork by University Alumna marked The King's Buildings campus centenary.


As part of a programme of celebratory events to mark The King’s Building campus centenary, the College of Science and Engineering commissioned a permanent and ambitious work of art by the internationally renowned artist Katie Paterson.

Chosen by a panel following a competitive selection process in 2019, the work was launched in November 2021 as part of the centenary celebrations.

Find out more about KB101

A proud alumna

Katie Paterson portrait
Katie Paterson - image credit Giorgia Polizzi

Katie Paterson has a longstanding connection to the University; not only as a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, but also as an honorary fellow, a position obtained in 2013 because of her ‘major contribution in fostering collaboration between the arts and sciences.’

At the heart of her art and method is direct collaboration with scientists and researchers to create projects that consider a wide range of scientific disciplines, questions and theories. She is widely regarded as one of the leading artists of her generation, has exhibited internationally, and her work forms part of many public collections, including the University of Edinburgh Art Collection.

The artwork

writing on a wall
Installation shot, Ideas (2021) by Katie Paterson at The King’s Building Campus. Micro water-jet cut stainless steel. Photography by John McKenzie.

The work, 'Ideas' (2021) takes the form of one hundred three-line texts cut in stainless steel (each an ‘Idea’), that are situated in a variety of locations in and around The King's Buildings campus. Installed over three weeks in October and November 2021, some 'Ideas' are immediately visible while  others are to be discovered in unexpected places, at varying levels, high and low. The locations include internal and exterior walls as well as among the grounds and gardens of King's Buildings. Each 'Idea' is inspired by scientific thought and research, and the subject-matter is wide ranging, from the first colours on earth to the universe’s last stars; involving fields such as chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology, and geography.

A lifelong series, Paterson conceives of each 'Idea' as works that may or may not come into being; they are intended to take shape in the imagination of whoever reads the words and so become an expression of the 'Idea' itself. For King's Buildings, Paterson has  drawn upon her existing body of work as well as composing many new 'Ideas'. Accompanying the physical presentation of the work there is  a website with bespoke map, designed for staff, students and visitors to find all one hundred artworks as they explore the campus.

Start exploring here

A home at KB

Since its inception, art has been embedded in the organic and rapid expansion of the King's Buildings campus. From the Reliefs of various animals on the Ashworth Laboratories created in 1929 by Phyllis Bone, to Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1996 sculptures Egeria and Parthenope, there are a number of artworks on campus that highlight its history and development. 'Ideas' join this tradition of commissioning new and innovative work, and heralds the start of the next century of developments for the campus and the college.


Video: KB100 Centenary Artwork video - Katie Paterson Ideas
Full video - KB centenary artwork by Katie Paterson

The ever-evolving 'Ideas' series lies at the heart of my practice. Akin to thought experiments, Zen koans, or ‘Gedankenexperiment’ the 'Ideas' stretch to the very distant edges of light, time and space. What time is it on Venus, what texts will be read by unborn people? Is it possible to plant a forest using saplings from the oldest tree on earth, can we make ink to be read only under moonlight? The King’s Building’s campus has been a playground of ideas for a century. The abundance of makers and thinkers across time has lead to insights, visions, new perceptions, great and small, in fields from astrophysics to sustainable forestry. There couldn’t be a more apt context in which the Ideas are experienced. The artwork has never been created as an outdoor experience, with such immensity, and I’m thrilled by this opportunity.

Katie Paterson


Distributed as it is across the entire campus, Katie's centenary artwork 'Ideas' mirrors the growth of King's Buildings throughout the century. The individual pieces, many of which have been born from meetings between Katie and College researchers, allude to the diverse discoveries and achievements of our community.

I am delighted to be able to introduce 'Ideas' as part of our KB101 celebrations, and I feel that Katie's artwork will both surprise and delight staff, students and visitors to the campus for many years to come.

Professor Dave RobertsonHead of College