Work

Beaverbrook Coach House and Spa

Beaverbrook House, Leatherhead

2019

At Beaverbrook Coach House, Brian has designed stained glass, mosaic and ceramics - from tiles to handrails and rills - to create a total work of art. Throughout the spa, skylights of mouth-blown glass, mosaic roundels, drifts of ceramic cornflowers and poppies, and his paintings and prints all conspire to produce a unified effect through light and colour. In the transept of the spa, the ceramic takes the form of a grid of tiles moving from deep blue to white in a gentle ombré, the wash of the gradient occasionally interrupted by a tile lighter or darker than those surrounding it, and the grid itself penetrated by ceramic poppies that interrupt and overlap with the precise rhythm of the rectilinear matrix, a decades-long exploration in Brian's work. Starting life as watercolours, the hand-made ceramic poppies, cut to lock into the grid of tilework, were engineered to respond to the rich light from the mouth-blown stained glass skylights - below these are ceramic rills constantly flowing with water, and the light and sound combine with the surrounds to make the spa a ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, a total work of art. Brian's design for each of the six treatment rooms takes as its visual inspiration a flowering plant found in the estate’s surroundings, with complementary stained glass windows and mosaic roundels designed for each, paired with his watercolour paintings of roses, wisteria, cherry blossom, daffodils, wild poppies and primroses.

For the pool house, Clarke designed a ceramic frieze of bespoke green tiles which wrap the room, punctuated by blue cornflowers. Seen from the water, the combined effect is like looking out at a field of grass – and occasionally the flowers rise above the line of green or below it, and a few are even set underwater into the bottom of the pool itself, or cluster on the pool house floor as if fallen there, water-jet-cut so they fit precisely into the surrounding material.

When they asked me to create an artistic environment for the spa at Beaverbrook the idea appealed to me greatly because I consciously seek through my art in buildings to uplift the soul – and the spa historically, since Roman times and before, has sought to do the same. I derive considerable pleasure from thinking that the combination of the environment and the treatments that people receive there take away the weight of contemporary life which is often so grim.”

Clarke’s mosaic roundels set in each therapy room floor introduce, through their multiple facets and natural imagery, an intricacy upon which to focus and meditate: they are an artistic and intriguing take on the practice of placing a bowl containing flowers under the therapy table, in order that, when looking down through the face-cradle, a client has objects on which to contemplate.” – Amanda Harrison