The Carmelite, Victoria Embankment
1991 – 1992
For the atrium of the Carmelite, Victoria Embankment (now demolished) Brian designed five monumental cut-pile tapestries, four of which were compositions with a drop of up to 90 feet, and a series of stained glass windows. Designed in 1991 and completed in 1992, the tapestries totalled 3,365 sq ft. Brian says: “When I was initially approached to do a project at the Carmelite, they asked me to cover over the roof with stained glass, which I said wouldn’t work for for the space – it needed a different treatment. They asked my advice, and my solution was to link the floors together vertically with tapestry. The story unfolds to you in its complexity and simplicity as you move between floors, or look across from the lifts or walkways. The tapestries brought colour to the back of the building and made it a happening space where you’d want to be. I also designed a series of stained glass lancet windows on the river-side of the Carmelite – they could be seen at night from the Royal College of Heralds. They were rather pretty and slender: at points in the building there were such slender lines of real light, which the architect wanted to block up,” but eleven of these windows were made for those spaces instead.
"The design amused me – they were all heraldic emblazoning colours, like hatchments, and the same with the tapestries. I wanted to drag something ancient and real into this environment. And opposite was the College of Arms, the centre of the whole of that kind of historical thing. I kind of brought this medieval heraldry to an aspirationally High Tech building – but, I was spending a lot of time with Norman Foster those days, so my idea of High Tech was of a somewhat different order. The tapestries - the carpet kind, open weft - were made for the Carmelite by a little two-man outfit in Gloucestershire, man and wife working on a loom together. It took them a full year to make all five. The scale figures in the designs include Lord Longford; a friend of mine who was a model, who died; Robert Mapplethorpe, from a portrait I took of him; and Pattie Boyd, Baroness Thyssen, myself and Bond girl Barbara Bach.”
The watercolour, acrylic and collage studies and designs for the Carmelite were executed in 1991