Crossrail Station Paddington (with Will Alsop)

Alsop Crossrail proposal site, Eastbourne Terrace, Paddington, London


"The Crossrail Station at Paddington is designed as a deep slit in the ground, marking the route of the new line, extending alongside the existing main-line station. Viewed from below, it is a railway cathedral; indeed, the height of the space from platforms to street equals that of Cologne Cathedral."

In 1994, Brian Clarke designed a 140-metre-long stained glass “light beam” and mosaic artwork in collaboration with Will Alsop and architectural practice Alsop & Störmer as part of a proposal for the then newly-conceived Crossrail, which required a new station at Paddington in London (now the Elizabeth Line). The composition stretches the length of Eastbourne Terrace. The function of the light beam is to take both natural and coloured light down onto the station platforms. Clarke's initial concept was for a glazed rooflight artwork, with clouds, translated from watercolour paintings, executed in his original technique of screenprinting in ceramic glaze on sheets of float glass. The final artwork for Clarke’s proposal used a carefully balanced combination of clear and coloured glass, and was designed to perceived in multiple ways: from within the mainline station, which runs parallel to the new rail link, the street would be viewed through both coloured and clear glass, and by day transmitted light would be projected onto the internal architecture of the building.

"From the CrossRail platform, by day, passengers would enjoy an open space vibrantly illuminated, their journey to street level accompanied by the experience of transilluminated, coloured forms. When illuminated at night the composition would be highly visible from above, from the top of the bus, and from the air the length of Eastbourne Terrace would be highlighted by a band of colour. This 140-metre long stained glass light beam was designed for the architectural firm, Alsop and Störmer for the Crossrail Station at Paddington. The function of the glass light beam is to take natural and coloured light down onto the station platforms for the new rail link. Brian Clarke describes William Alsop's architecture as all theatre and loud music - 'the grandeur only gradually emerges from the clamour'. Alsop says of Clarke, 'He understands the building process, he's architecturally minded. We wanted an art work which was part of the architecture but not dictated by it.' The glass 'box' was designed in a close collaboration between Clarke and the architects. There was an obvious need to retain large areas of clear glass. In fact, the balance between plain and coloured glass is very carefully considered. Clarke describes the overall composition as 'episodic'." 

"A particular emphasis was placed on the junction with Chilworth Street and Eastbourne Terrace, where the walker or driver faces a huge area of colour. 'It's a project to be experienced in many ways,' says Alsop, 'coming up the escalators, going down, looking up from the platform level.' From high above, the station will read as an illuminated slash of colour. Any fears about the conservatism of stained glass married with the expressive dynamism of the architecture are met with the idea that colour provides intensity that can only be achieved with stained glass." – Architectural Design, from Colour in Architecture, published by Academy Editions.