Work

Pfizer World Headquarters

Manhattan, New York City

19951997

Commissioned to produce a major work of art for the refurbishment of Pfizer’s World Headquarters in 1995, Brian created a composition that connects 42nd and 43rd Street through the length of the site, the depth of a full Manhattan block. A rheumatoid knee, bacteria, health and disease – responding to the function of the existing building with a design that translates medical and scientific imagery through the media of traditionally mouth-blown stained glass and mosaic, the 4,833 square foot work relates directly to the heart of Pfizer’s enterprises. Brian has said: “I like to think that all my projects explore the specific nature of the architecture. This means addressing problems relating to a great variety of practical and philosophical issues. Microphotographic images of cells, bones and tissues explore not only my own philosophical enquiry into the human condition from birth: incorporated into the physical structure of the lobby they become the vehicles that lead us to an experience generally unrelated to working spaces. This attempt to materially improve the working day and atmosphere for those who occupy this building is a genuine and heartfelt, an attempt to render – however briefly – the commonplace sublime."

Client: Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Architect: Hixon Design Consultants, Inc.

When the work at Pfizer was installed, the chief executive and the board came for their first viewing of it and were very happy with the sheer decorative beauty of these forms, made in the same tradition as the windows at Chartres or Canterbury – and then I explained to them, innocently really, ‘These are all HIV cells budding from healthy cells, and as you walk from the lobby into the main hall, you move from HIV to terminal cancer’. There was still an unpleasant aura, a violent stigma, around having HIV and AIDS. 1997 was when combination therapy first came out, the first year in which there was an approximation of effective treatment. And Lou Clemente, Pfizer’s General Counsel, turned to us and said ‘This is what we do. This is an artist reminding us what we do’. And you can’t not do that - I’m not an interior decorator, and architecture profoundly influences our spiritual demeanour. If like me you believe in the transforming power of art, the importance of making sure our working environments are inspiring is more than a luxury, it is a human right - a human need.