London Stansted Airport Proposal  

Stansted, United Kingdom

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 proposal saw for the first time in the history of stained glass the use of computer-aided design software during the creative process. The proposed artwork 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 mouth-blown, leaded stained glass.

Clarke designed 22 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, could not be executed. 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.