Rennie Mackintosh Design at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland

This morning, I joined a tour of Glasgow School of Art with emphasis on the new, Reid Building which opened in 2014.

The Rennie Mackintosh designed building opposite (image below) was severely damaged by fire in 2014 and may not re-open until 2018/9.

Information obtained from the tour as follows:

  • During the 19th century Glasgow was a centre for heavy industry including shipbuilding and textiles.This wealth creation and activity generated a demand for design expertise across a range of disciplines which was supplied by the Glasgow School of Art (founded in 1845).
  • Francis H Newbery was Director of the School from 1885 to 1917. Under Newbery’s enlightened leadership new ideas and horizons were introduced, including art nouveau, which led to the ‘Glasgow Style’. Also, female students were admitted thus setting a precedent for Europe. It was here that English student, Margaret MacDonald met her future husband, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
  •  Under Newbery a new, purpose-built building was commissioned. Charles Rennie Mackintosh won the design competition in 1896 notwithstanding he was not a fully qualified architect at the time. He became a partner of Honeyman and Keppie in 1901.
  • The Art School was constructed in two phases (both designed by Mackintosh) with east section (below) completed in 1899 and the west section in 1909. Although superficially identical the later western half incorporated subtle changes influenced by art nouveau and Japan.
  • The image below also illustrates the large, north-facing windows to maximise use of available light, for benefit of the students.
  • The iron-work embellishments (image no 2 below) feature the form of a rose, which is the symbol of art and life.Roses progressively open up from left to right (east to west).The bunch of vertical spikes may represent arrows or tulips.
  • The main entrance (image no 3 below) features the only stone carving, with a rose and female forms on either side.Latter are guardians of art and the Art School.
  • The east elevation (immediately below) incorporates Scottish Baronial influences, with even a dovecote on top. Absence of windows is to avoid conflict with light from north. The two apertures at ground level ( to left of group of people) were a later addition to allow for circus animals to enter. These were used as models by the students.
  • The blond, natural sandstone used in construction was quarried locally, near Queen Street Station.

Moving on to the new Reid Building:

  • Designed by Stephen Holl Architects, New York which was the winner out of 153 submissions.
  • Design complements and respects the original building opposite.
  • Faced with a thin skin of acid etched glass which is non-reflective.
  • Concrete inside with natural light providing an empty canvas for students.
  • Contains a row of three huge 5m-wide concrete cylinders that penetrate through the five storey frame on a sloping incline from the ground floor right up to roof level. These“driven voids of light” are multi-purpose cylinders to (a) bring light into the centre of the building (b) assist the building’s natural ventilation (c) provide structural support to resist vertical forces and wind loading and (d) in the basement, function as large cylindrical water tanks for the sprinkler system.
  • Displays less ornamentation than the original building opposite.
  • The furniture illustrated in the images below was specially commissioned by Mackintosh for particular properties. The clock dates from 1910 and has fourteen faces connected to a master mechanism which runs on a mixture of electricity and gravity.The clocks were produced by Dykes Bros, Glasgow.

Margaret MacDonald:

  • Wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh
  • An early female graduate of the Art School.
  • Had skills in metal panelling, embroidery and textiles.
  • Worked closely with her husband on commissions.

The tour lasted about one hour and was excellent value.

North and eastern elevations of Glasgow School of Art

Design detail from north elevation of Glasgow School of Art

North entrance to Glasgow School of Art

Exterior of Reid Building, Glasgow School of Art

Interior design at Reid Building, Glasgow School of Art

Interior design at Reid Building, Glasgow School of Art

Mackintosh designed furniture at Glasgow School of Art

Mackintosh designed furniture at Glasgow School of Art

Mackintosh furniture at Glasgow School of Art

Mackintosh designed clock at Glasgow School of Art

Reid Building interior, Glasgow School of Art

Reid Building interior, Glasgow School of Art

Reid Building interior, Glasgow School of Art

Reid Building interior, Glasgow School of Art

Reid Building interior, Glasgow School of Art

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