In Praise of the Glasgow School of Art

I first came across the Glasgow School of Art in 1996. I was visiting a friend studying at the University of Dundee and we caught a coach to Glasgow for a day-trip. Little did I know that it would be a day which would cement a fascination and love of the architecture and design of one Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

A retrospective blockbuster exhibition of Mackintosh’s work at the McLellan Gallery caught my eye. Hours later I’d become hooked on the magic, beauty and power of the Mackintosh design pallet.

Just around the corner stood the Mackintosh masterpiece – the Glasgow School of Art. Iconic can be an over-used word but in this case its apt. This towering wonder of majesty and art-nouveau classic touches the soul, heart and head. The first time you come across it stays with you for life; where-ever you’re approaching from. You have to slowly follow the contours and topography of the building drinking in its harshness and curve-appeal.

Mackintosh’s canon of work is limited to a few projects in Scotland and one completed redesign in Northampton in England. And yet his influence reaches through the ages. He was a pioneer of integrated living for life – a kind of fore-runner of Habitat and IKEA in a lose way – designing every aspect of domestic dwellings inside and outside them.

Time after time I come back to my encounters with the Glasgow School of Art. The need to observe and note every detail of its exterior and smiling continuously as you journey through the beating heart of this much-loved living breathing school of art.

Hence the shock and pain of the fire that ripped through the west wing and threatened its very survival. This architectural wonder must be rebuilt for future generations to enjoy as a place of study, inspiration and magical wonder.

It shows that buildings can create emotion and connections that move people deeply. The drama of the last 24 hours took me back to my first meeting with Mackintosh’s most famous building hoping that I can return to see it renewed and re-imagined.


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