London Stansted Airport proposal (with Norman Foster)

Stansted Airport, England


In 1988, Brian Clarke and Norman Foster proposed a major stained glass artwork for the new terminal building of Stansted Airport, designed by Foster + Partners. Described by Foster as "an ambitious project to transform the building envelope with large-scale coloured glass panels", the collaboration – the first time in the history of stained glass that computer-assisted design had been utilised in the creative process – would have seen the 162-metre length of the east and west walls of the High-tech building, now recognised as 'one of the great moments of late modernism', clad in two sequences of mouthblown, leaded stained glass. Clarke designed twenty-two windows for each elevation, 'a system of independent yet related works conceived as a direct response to the prevailing architectural modular grid system'. For complex technical and security reasons, the original scheme, which Clarke considered to be his magnum opus, couldn't be executed; Norman Foster, writing in 2018, describes how the collaborative proposal "evolved into a further concept for using stained glass as linear overhead elements in the airport’s satellite lounges", also unrealised. In 1991, the British Airports Authority commissioned a second, smaller stained glass project from Clarke for Stansted Airport in place of his and Foster's original, integral scheme.

"The original proposal for Stansted involved two dramatic sequences of stained glass panels along the east and west walls of the terminal building. These forty-four grid-based panels were developed by the artist in collaboration with Sir Norman Foster and Spencer de Grey as a contrapunctual development of 'perforations into the white opaque membrane of the building'. In their own turn, Clarke's own grids were subsequently disturbed by apparently random 'amorphs' of colour. This was probably the first time in the development of the medium of stained glass that computer-generated projections have been used by the artist."