Notting Hill/Design Museum Bus Shelters (with Norman Foster)
Notting Hill Gate/The Design Museum, London, England
1996 – 1999
"We wanted to bring art into the street, to offer an experience that would transcend the banality of everyday life. Waiting for your bus, you stand under a transparent canopy of leaves made from natural stained-glass. When the sun is in the right position, it casts a pattern of colours and shadows on to the pavement. Even on a dull day you are aware of the colourful ‘sky’ above you. The intention was to replace every bus shelter in Britain. The leaves would change from region to region; every shelter would be special to its place." – Brian Clarke
Between 1996 and 1999, Clarke and architect Norman Foster collaborated on a proposal for a series of bus shelters, the world's first combined bus stop and disabled access toilets, with JCDecaux. Designed by Foster + Partners, each structure would feature a printed, coloured glass ceiling by Clarke related to the stop’s location, paired with an etched entry of text on the area from Nikolaus Pevsner's series of architectural guides 'The Buildings of England'. In 1999, two were executed, one at Notting Hill Gate and the other on Kensington High Street, outside the former Commonwealth Institute (now the Design Museum). Each integral artwork provides a coloured canopy that casts shifting light across the street and shelter.
"These are the bus stops Norman Foster and I collaborated on. Our proposal was for a series of shelters, where each roof would have an artwork where I'd use the materials of the shelter to achieve the nearest thing to a stained glass experience within the budget. Starting in 1996, we did two experiments, one here at Notting Hill Gate and one by the Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street. The intention was that every bus stop of this type manufactured by JCDecaux (probably the most adventurous of all street furniture producers) globally would include printed, faux stained glass, and I wanted each in England to have the appropriate text to its location from Pevsner's 'Buildings of England' series. Though only two were made, I was really pleased with them: at the time I was reading a lot of Leger and thinking about art on public display, and the idea of being able to put something on the bus stops and really actually make people's days better was the most wonderful experience and opportunity. It's a pity, as it would have been a real achievement, like the Belisha beacon. And it's such a solid design – Norman at his modest, anonymous best. It's a matter of daily pleasure to me to watch folk waiting for the bus actively enjoying the colour leap across the busy stop." – Brian, 2020.
"We collaborated on an idea that every roof would have a faux stained glass experience, but that we would use the materials of the shelter to create the very best kind of artistic experience, achieve the nearest thing to a stained glass experience within the budget. We did two experiments, one at Notting Hill and one at the Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street. They were the first integrated bus stop and disabled access toilets in the world. And sometimes when the sun's coming really from low in the east and it's on an east-west axial arterial road, when the sun's coming from the extreme east or declining in the extreme west it casts sometimes the transillumination of colour across the sidewalk. And it's really nice, cause you see, like, kids playing in it and people pointing it out. And people are intrigued by natural phenomena of that sort.
So, we did those two, and I can't remeber why we couldn't continue to be honest. The idea was that every bus stop of that type built in England would have the Pevsner entry for that location and a coloured glass canopy. I don't know if we could have gone site-specific for every one, but I would have liked to have had a go! But there wasn't enough money in it to do site-specific artwork for every one, so we were trying to get generic feelings and types that would work in a variety of urban and rural situations. At the Commonwealth Institute, I scattered the flags of the countries that were then part of the Commonwealth against a sheet of canvas I had painted blue and photographed it and just made it like an ornament. And really, these were in the way of experiments, but experiments that we wanted to be a success in their own selves, because people would use them."