Following in Mackintosh’s footsteps while traveling in Scotland

For people who have never been, Glasgow might conjure up visions of a sprawling, depressing, industrial city—at best, the shipyards where the Lusitania, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth 2 were built; at worst, the heroin-addicted nihilistic squalor of Trainspotting.

But nothing could be further from the truth. While Scotland’s largest city—and one of the British Empire’s major economic engines—certainly has some grit, it also has charm and beauty to spare, as well as some of the best gastronomic, performing arts and design scenes in Europe.

Mackintosh Tea Room

On this last score, Glasgow’s artistic and architectural heritage are exceptional, and this year marks an auspicious occasion: the 150th anniversary of the birth of native son Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Often named the greatest U.K. architect of the 20th century, he was a visionary whose designs went largely unappreciated in his own day but now boast a cult of admirers that includes Brad Pitt, Barbra Streisand and the late Princess Margaret. “Toshy,” along with his equally brilliant wife, Margaret MacDonald, her sister, Frances, and her husband, James Herbert MacNair, formed what became known in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as “the Glasgow Four,” and together they created “the Glasgow Style.” Their aesthetic anticipated art nouveau and art deco by 20 years and still looks shockingly contemporary to the modern eye.

To explore the imprint that Mackintosh left on the city, check in to the centrally located luxury boutique hotel Dakota Deluxe. Mere blocks away, a good first stop is the Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh’s alma mater. A series of fires, most recently in June, destroyed the cutting-edge building he designed to house the school, which was voted Britain’s best building of the past 175 years. 

Set within the magnificent grounds of Bellahouston Park, the House for an Art Lover is based upon Mackintosh and MacDonald’s entry in a design competition held by a German magazine in 1901. Meanwhile, Mackintosh’s own house at 6 Florentine Terrace, where he and Margaret lived from 1906 until 1914, was precisely recreated inside Glasgow University’s Hunterian Art Gallery. Visitors have been known to audibly gasp upon their first glimpse of his design.

Mackintosh Art Gallery


One of Mackintosh’s remaining masterpieces, the Scotland Street School, is a quirky museum that welcomes visitors on several floors to witness the humanistic and playful approach to architecture that characterized Mackintosh’s style. One of his most fertile and popular collaborations, however, was with an entrepreneur named Kate Cranston, whose Willow Tea Rooms offered one of the few respectable public places for ladies to socialize at the end of the Victorian era. Mackintosh designed not only the exteriors and interiors, but everything from the cutlery to the waitresses’ uniforms. The last of the remaining tearooms was painstakingly restored and it reopened in July on Sauchiehall Street, the city’s main retail thoroughfare.

There are other Mackintosh monuments sprinkled throughout Glasgow—the Daily Record Building, the Hill House, the Lighthouse and a few more—but none illustrates in such stark relief how ahead of his time Mackintosh was than the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The galleries devoted to the Glasgow Style offer a stunning array of stained glass, works on paper, textiles and embroidery, repoussé metalwork, silver, enamelwork, glass, gesso, furniture and interiors.

Of course, there’s lots more to Glasgow than Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The vibrant food scene ranges from the laid-back Café Gandolfi to the old standby the Buttery and the buzzworthy Gannet. At Òran Mór, a Victorian church converted into a performance space, catch lunchtime sensation A Play, A Pie and A Pint, where you’ll receive a beer and a bite to eat while watching plays that range from a satirical update on Aristophanes’ The Clouds to Melania, the Musical. The city’s Gallery of Modern Art, though modest in scope, includes some interesting work, along with a statue of the Duke of Wellington out front that’s had a traffic cone on its head for more than 40 years, while trendy shops like END—a men’s boutique selling such labels as Balenciaga, Thom Browne, Bathing Ape and Commes des Garçons Play—abound. And what trip to Scotland is complete without a visit to a distillery? Thanks to Clydeside Distillery, an impressive new operation built on the ruins of Glasgow’s old working docks, you don’t even need to leave the city to enjoy one.

But following the trail that Mackintosh left in his native city is an interesting way to understand the true essence of Glasgow. The traces of Mackintosh’s surviving work can feel frustratingly thin, precisely because he was too avant garde for his day, and Glasgow clings to its self-perception as dingy in a quintessentially Scottish and cussed way. Yet once you experience those kernels of Mackintosh’s brilliance, you see that Glasgow was—and remains—a city of innovation, taste and refinement. ◆

Traveler’s Check

— Currently on hiatus, the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh at the GSA tours are set to resume on Oct. 1.


Source: Glas-go! | Improper Bostonian

Edinburgh festivals: Mackintosh art school ‘should not be rebuilt by pedantic architects’ 

Computers should take charge of the rebuilding of Glasgow School of Art rather than pedantic architects, according to the biographer of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Roger Billcliffe, an art historian, said that the fire which destroyed the art school in June “won’t be the end of the world”, even if the charred hulk of the building had to be demolished.The blaze was the second at the site in four years. It led to a computer survey of the building, which in turn could help restore it to its original glory, Mr Billcliffe told the Edinburgh International Book Festival.“The computer will make the drawings to make the building again,” he said. “It may be a good thing that the computer is doing it — it won’t [ . . . ]

Continue at THE TIMES: Edinburgh festivals: Mackintosh art school ‘should not be rebuilt by pedantic architects’ | Scotland | The Times

The tea rooms that brought Mackintosh back to life 

The week before the fire that destroyed his Glasgow School of Art, the 150th anniversary of the designer’s birth was celebrated with a preview of the £10m restoration of the Willow Tea Rooms.While the art school was seen by experts as the finest achievement of Glasgow’s best-known and visionary architect, many of the public will view the tea rooms as the place that defined the Mackintosh style.

The original 1903 Willow Tea Rooms were designed in their entirety by Mackintosh and he had total control inside and out.

He remodelled the exterior of the 1860s tenement block and oversaw the interior decorative elements, right down to the design of the cutlery and the uniform of the waitresses.

However, Glasgow was largely indifferent to the genius in its midst and it was businesswoman Kate Cranston, the tea room queen, who received the plaudits.

[ . . . ]

Read more at BBC: The tea rooms that brought Mackintosh back to life – BBC News

More Hobbledehoy posts about Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh interiors from Hill House go on display in Glasgow

It has been an upsetting few months for the many fans of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his unique art nouveau style.The Edwardian building at Glasgow School of Art, widely considered to be the architect’s masterpiece, was reduced to little more than its exterior walls following a devastating fire on the evening of June 15 [ . . . ]

Continue at THE SCOTSMAN: Charles Rennie Mackintosh interiors from Hill House go on display in Glasgow – The Scotsman

Work continues to make fire-ravaged Mackintosh Building safe 

Stabilisation work is under way at the Mackintosh Building as efforts continue to make the fire-hit art school safe.

In the latest update, experts say steel restraints have been installed on the east gable of the Glasgow site, allowing for the replacement of scaffolding.At the west end of the building, the existing scaffolding on the north facade has been cut away, enabling high-level work including the removal of roof steelwork.Work has also begun to make a key area of the ABC O2 building safe so stabilisation of the south facade of the Mackintosh Building can proceed.

Flames tore through the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building on June 15, the second devastating fire to hit the art school. The blaze has had a big impact on the local Garnethill community, with locals frustrated that they cannot access their properties to retrieve possessions. A £5 million fund was recently announced by the Scottish Government to help businesses affected by the fire.[ . . . ]

Continue at THE SCOTSMAN: Work continues to make fire-ravaged Mackintosh Building safe – The Scotsman