Olympus European Headquarters, Hamburg

Olympus Optical GmbH, Wendenstraße 16, Hamburg, Germany


In 1981, a major commission for paintings, a wood and steel construction, and a suite of stained glass windows totalling 2,150 square feet for the Olympus European Headquarters Building in Hamburg was completed, for which Clarke was given 'complete freedom of the design of the entrance hall for the new building', and at the same time starred in a series of adverts for Olympus cameras. Described by Professor Johannes Schreiter, pre-eminent figure of the Post-War German school of stained glass, as 'the first works to bring the discoveries of Field Painting into stained glass', the complexity of the designs for Hamburg necessitated the development of special diamond cutting and sandblasting techniques to accommodate the graphic, non-structural role of the lead in places, and marked the start of Clarke's manufacturing his windows in Germany rather than England, a major break with tradition. In addition to the 2,150 square feet of mouth-blown, integral stained glass along the ground floor of the building, which had a strong nocturnal presence when lit from within, the Olympus Optical project included three modular, reticular Blue Computergram and White Computergram assemblages, the wood and steel construction The Well-Tempered Environment, and the 1978 painting Golden Section. In 1999, Brian designed mosaic and stained glass for the facade and entrance hall of Olympus' new European Headquarters Building, completed in 2000.

Deyan Sudjic in The Guardian, April 1981: "The Hamburg commission strikes out in a new direction, and represents the coming of age of an artist who is still only 27. The windows, arranged in triptychs, are based on sparse geometrical grids, subverted by jagged leaded lines and lush slabs of colour. Technically they represented a considerable challenge. The paintings and windows face each other across the foyer of the building, balancing each other out. The paintings have a grid of their own, echoing the windows with their obsessive repetition of cross motifs. But they also include more architectural elements — you can read some of the shapes as architectural plans, cut up and collaged together. Clarke has large ambitions. He wants to do for art what the Sex Pistols did for music, sweeping away establishment figures and starting again from scratch with a fresh approach somewhere between art and architecture — he calls it the new constructivism."

"After a series of successful and admired commissions for stained glass in ecclesiastical buildings Brian Clarke achieved what was to be the first of his large-scale commissions in a secular context. From an artistic point of view his pursuit of a specifically modernist approach had always demanded the step into this realm. His design combines the translucent richness of the glass with the vibrant silence of rectangular monochromatic areas. The visitor experiences the division of light and the interaction of colours in space. Coming nearer he discovers the frame-like structure embodying the central colour like walls enclose a room. The reflection of basic architectural concepts in his art is further enhanced by the overall grid of glazier’s lead with its subtle and repetitive structure reminiscent of that modest and humblest tool of modern architects - graph paper. One element however transforms the prevailing geometric impression of his design into an outstanding exploration of his ambition to balance the neutrality of repetition with the freedom of the irregular form - when every now and then the grid breaks up into scribbled lines." – Deyan Sudjic, 1981.