Royal Ascot Grandstand ‘Great South Window’

Ascot Racecourse, Berkshire, England


A 27,000 square foot stained glass window, designed at an unprecedented scale utilising Clarke’s original technique of ceramic-glaze printing on float glass to create a new type of stained glass, was conceived as an integral part of the Ascot Grandstand and of the experience of Ascot itself. The ‘Great South Window’ received royal approval, as part of the redevelopment by architects HOK, and the design was finalised through Clarke’s sketchbooks, and in watercolour paintings, collages, drawn studies, computer visualisations and the construction of models. Stained glass samples were fabricated and exhibited at the Nash Conservatory in Kew Gardens, and fabrication was begun for the opening of the redeveloped racecourse, but unforeseen, unrelated complications in the construction of the Grandstand itself rendered the completion and installation of the artwork impracticable. Lamina, the monumental, independent sculptural stained glass artwork first installed at Gagosian Gallery in 2005, developed out of the unrealised scheme for Ascot.

The Great South Window at Ascot's new grandstand represents a marriage between art and architecture rarely seen on this scale since the Middle Ages. Ascot itself, as well as symbolising the finest in sporting achievement, holds a unique position in the history of racing and the culture that forms part of it, in particular its royal meetings, have come to express the powerful attachment that exists between the public and an Arcadian idyll. People from every social background come together to celebrate sporting excellence in a majestically beautiful landscape within striking distance of Windsor Castle. The atmosphere is at once both thrilling and bucolically peaceful. The design for the Great South Window is inspired by and based upon the passage of sunlight through English oak leaves. Like a forest canopy, it forms a protective and gentle filter of colour and at the same time is a vital part of the architecture of the Grandstand. Here art and architecture come together to form singular, cohesive poetry. It is an uncompromising celebration of beauty. Brian Clarke, who has created this design, is the world's leading artist in this field and considered by many experts to be the greatest stained glass artist since William Morris. He considers the Great South Window at Ascot to be his masterpiece. Many agree with him and believe it is destined to become a world landmark of extraordinary architectonic beauty.

“Clarke's design of stained glass for the Great South Window of the grandstand at Royal Ascot Racecourse, as part of the 2004-2006 redevelopment, was to have been the world's largest work in the medium. The project received royal approval from Queen Elizabeth II, but problems arose during the redevelopment's construction that prevented the installation of the window, as redressing them would have necessitated a delay to reopening the racecourse in time for the forthcoming season.”