Olympus European Headquarters

1980 - 1981
Olympus Optical GmbH, Hamburg, Germany

In 1981, Brian Clarke completed a large commission for paintings, a wood and steel construction and a suite of stained glass windows for the Olympus European Headquarters building in Hamburg. For this development, the artist was given 'complete freedom of the design of the entrance hall for the new building’, and at the same time starred in a series of adverts for Olympus cameras.

This major project was described by Johannes Schreiter, a pre-eminent figure of the post-war German school of stained glass, as 'the first work to bring the discoveries of Field Painting into stained glass.' The designs were so complex they required the development of special diamond cutting and sandblasting techniques to accommodate the graphic, non-structural role of the lead in place. Totalling 2,150 square feet of mouth-blown, integral stained glass, this project also marked the start of Clarke manufacturing his windows in Germany rather than England, representing a major break with tradition.

A series of stained glass windows, spanning the ground floor of the building, with a strong nocturnal presence when lit from within, constitutes the focal point of this commission. The overall project also includes three assemblages; the wood and steel construction The Well-Tempered Environment; and the 1978 painting Golden Section.

Deyan Sudjic writes in The Guardian, in April 1981:

‘The Hamburg commission strikes out in a new direction, and represents the coming of age of an artist who is still only 27...The visitor experiences the division of light and the interaction of colours in space. Coming nearer he discovers the frame-like structure embodying the central colour like walls enclose a room. The reflection of basic architectural concepts in his art is further enhanced by the overall grid of glazier’s lead with its subtle and repetitive structure reminiscent of that modest and humblest tool of modern architects - graph paper. One element however transforms the prevailing geometric impression of his design into an outstanding exploration of his ambition to balance the neutrality of repetition with the freedom of the irregular form - when every now and then the grid breaks up into scribbled lines.’

In 1999, Clarke designed a mosaic and stained glass set for the facade and entrance hall of Olympus' new European headquarters building, completed in 2000.