Victoria Quarter

1988 - 1990
Leeds, United Kingdom

In the late 1980s, Brian Clarke was asked to contribute a proposal for a stained glass artwork to accompany the refurbishment of Queen Victoria Street Arcade in Leeds. This nineteenth-century, Grade II listed building was being restored by architects Derek Latham & Co, with whom Clarke had previously collaborated on the transformation of Buxton’s Thermal Baths into the Cavendish Arcade.

The initial commission at Leeds was for stained glass at either end of the street, but Clarke developed the idea into a scheme to glaze over the entire street, which was being pedestrianised and roofed over to form a contemporary arcade. The scheme resulted in a traditionally-leaded roof of mouth-blown glass extending from one end of the street to the other and measuring over 400 feet long. This project was the largest secular work of stained glass in the world at the time of its completion in 1990, and remains the largest single work of stained glass in Great Britain and the largest stained glass roof in Europe. Among the largest public artworks in the UK, the project was recipient of the Europa Nostra Award in 1990, and the Leeds Award for Architecture (Special Award for Stained Glass).

Clarke said in 2020:

‘The arcade at Leeds is like a cathedral. There’s a semi-joking reference – two forefingers, like a corrupt God and Adam (amorphic elements disturbing the rectilinear grid) at the crossover where the "transept" meets the "nave": my Sistine Chapel. The stained glass is a musically sympathetic continuation of what happens in the terracotta pediments by Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham, responding to context without being historicistly fawning.'