Saturday 16 February 2019

A hug-able ‘Popcorn’

Imagine Merchant Street, Valletta. Now imagine a giant popcorn made out of concrete which you can feel and perhaps hug.

The ‘Popcorn’ Public Artwork Project by Rune Bo Jakobsen is one of the science-based street art installations that will be featured on Friday 27th September as part of Science in the City festival. The installation will be displayed in front of the Auberge d’Italie, Merchants Street, Valletta.

“The intention is to bring art out of the museum and directly into the street where the public can touch and ponder. The concept of the ‘Popcorn’ sculpture defines expansion and fertility,” explained architect and artist Rune Bo Jakobsen.

“The popcorn analogy where a tiny seed bursts into a unique sculptural volume can be seen as an expression of life and the growth of an embryo. On one hand, the concept deals with the growth of the individual, yet also the growth of the industrial and physical environment.”

The idea is to create an expanding volume using an experimental concrete casting technique where the concrete takes the shape of a textile form. The shape and texture of the sculpture is dictated by the forces and pressures between the flexible skin and the liquid concrete.

At the collaborating Blokrete Ltd factory, experimental casts have been expanded to an industrial scale gradually arriving to a 1m diameter and reaching two tonnes. The forces of the liquid concrete become much stronger, subjecting the materials and sculptural method to tougher tests. Expressive tension lines and folds are fossilized in the concrete as if the expansion were frozen in time.

science in the city popcorn poster 2

While using industrial materials, the convex shapes are reminiscent of the Maltese Neolithic goddess of fertility.  Some casts also contain concave voids, where the sculpture also becomes an introvert space — an opened seed or a womb.

During the Science in the City festival, the ‘Popcorn’ sculpture will be accompanied in Merchant Street by a workshop; where University students Emily Sammut (Department of Food Studies and Environmental Health) and Karl Montebello (Department of Applied Biomedical Science) will be demonstrating the science and nutrition of popcorn. Collaborating in the production of the sculpture, chemist, Alistair Buttigieg of Halmann Vella will visualise technologies behind expanding aerated concrete. After a bit of learning, a popmachine will be making free popcorn to try.

Rune Bo Jakobsen,, has studied, worked and tutored workshops in Denmark, Arizona, Italy, Finland, Greece, Mexico and Malta. Working as an architect by day and artist by night, he has been awarded Malta Arts Funds for ‘Popcorn’.

‘Science in the City’ forms part of the pan-European Researchers’ Night held annually, aiming to enhance public recognition of researchers and their work, and providing a platform for adults and children alike to creatively engage with science in a more entertaining way.

The Science in the City festival is supported by the EU’s FP7 Programme and the Malta Arts Fund. The activities are coordinated by the Research Trust of the University of Malta (RIDT), and the Malta Chamber of Scientists in partnership with the Valletta Local Council, MEUSAC, the Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sports, European Commission Representation in Malta, MCST, Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, Where’s Everybody, Malta Chamber of Pharmacists, PBS, Notte Bianca, iCreatemotion, Vodafone, Valletta 2018 Foundation, Microsoft Innovation Centre and St James Cavalier.

The programme can be downloaded from or festival updates followed on Facebook at:


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