Work

Beaverbrook Coach House and Spa

Cherkley Court, Leatherhead

20162019

In his design of the spa at Beaverbrook Country Hotel's Coach House, Brian Clarke has created a total work of art: mouth-blown stained glass, Venetian mosaic, drifts of handmade ceramic cornflowers and poppies, tile work, and his paintings and prints all appear throughout, conspiring to produce a unified effect through light and colour.

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.” – Brian, 2018

In the entrance to the spa, a ceramic reception desk by Clarke (with a matching fireplace within the spa itself) sits beneath a ceiling of stained glass oak leaves and printed panels of line-drawn new leaf, and behind it a freestanding stained glass screen of cherry blossom. In the transept of the spa, the ceramic takes the form of a ceiling to floor grid of tiles, penetrated by ceramic poppies that interrupt and overlap with the regular 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 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’, both work of art and environment in itself.

Clarke'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 displayed through the common parts of the spa. 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. Stained glass skylights in hammam and its treatment room make the space softly glow.

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