And here I am in Glasgow. And the first place I walk off to is up the hill to Glasgow School of Art, bobbing around the construction going on blocking a full walk up to Renfrew. With various stuff blocking the side elevation of a building, reknowned. And I get the idea at once how Rennie Mackintosh was given a beaut of a site to work with. Nothing like a strange slope down to get that creative juice rolling. That was the first thing I thought about as I walked up the hill. What would it be for these kids to walk up the hill clutching newsprint sketchbooks with ice on the ground?
I had heard him referenced, back in my school days probably through Herbert Ross, my art history teacher. I had seen furniture design of his in New York, the Modern I believe. Then there was that book Janene bought me. And I realized that I would really like to see his work. It took about 20 years. There is something about being in a space that photos, floor plans, a film can never give you.
What I noticed about his work, always is the use of windows. Look over the door in the shot of the front entrance. He always has a dominant orthographic look, but he always combines it with the beautiful subtlety of curves. Notice in the same shot how the stone entrance bows slightly from the door on the verticals, then repeats less subtlely in the wonderful curve away from the steps.
The buidling was done and financed in parts. The wild part is that the east side of the building (above, left) was finished first. The west (above, right) came later, and is a totally different style.
Take a look directly below and you will see how varied the treatment of the eastern side is (below, left) from the western side (below, center). We would not give it a thought today, in the age of post-Modernism, but I am sure it must have raised eyebrows in its day. Neoclassicism was still very much a part of Victorian Britain. Because of the way the tour was structured, it was hard to get a sense of wholes on the inside. The library would be the top three windows in the center shot, but were boarded for construction.
The scale model, which I “illegally” shot in the bookstore allows you to see the difference. East elevation (left), West Elevation (center) and actual shot with construction West elevation of the building.
There is a lot of construction going on across the street facing the buidling’s front entrance. An extension of the school, I believe, so it is impossible to see the front in full view. Below are shots, again illegally taken of the front and back elevation on the scale model.
The tour had some great highlights. The student gallery is wonderful, especially the ceiling treatment where the trusses look like the structure of a boat bottom; the wonderful hen walk, a glass enclosure with a beautiful view across the city; and the library. The treatment of lights in the library and the kind of enclosure he envisioned was insightful and sophisticated. While I didn’t agree with the concept (like who cares!). If nothing, Mackintosh’s sophistication always comes through. Mackintosh seems to merge design and space with simplicity and great elegance. Wright comes across as more country boy, and Otto Wagner seems to impose decoration on to structure.
I never knock someone trying to make money, even if I don’t want to fall into the scheme. The Glasgow School is a little silly, and a lot disingenuous. No photographing at all is allowed. The excuse is to preserve the privacy of its students. Hogwash. In the tour I was in, we were not allowed even near the studios. Can you imagine visiting an art school and never even getting to see the studios.
Having been an art student, I could tell you bullshit right from the start. We are invited into the spaces that Mackintosh designs for art students, and never allowed to SEE a studio! How can you understand the thought process, if you cannot experience the space? Imagine the Eiffel Tower, the Sistine Chapel, or the Great Wall without being on site. But i am sure their bookstore will sell you a book to explain it. One of those quirky post-Thatcherisms.
So here is what I tell you. If you are an affectionado for Mack, for your £8 take the subway out to Cessnock and walk pleasantly about 1/2 mile and pay about £4 and see the House for an Art Lover, which is a post-building based upon sketches. Or better yet have Tea on Sauchiehall Street at the Willow Tea Room, third floor. Or if you really want to get a sense of site and space, go over to Scotland Street School right outside of the Shields Street Station and for £3 donation, spend a day walking the site, looking and experiencing the spaces that he designed for kids.
I understand from our guide, a lovely girl, that you can go into the gallery area off the street during the day for free. And then decide on the tour.
A horrible fire swept through the upper part of the building destroying the library after this was written, follow link: