Thursday, July 30, 2015

Charles Rennie Macintosh Day

We spent one day in Glasgow, taking the train from Stirling, where we found a B&B that was much cheaper than those available in the larger city.  (I was disappointed in my photos of Stirling.  None really turned out well, so I have left those out of the blog.) Glasgow was another story entirely.

Our day in Glasgow was truly “Charles Rennie Macintosh Day,” because our stay there involved an in-depth look at this seminal architect/designer’s work. Part of the Arts and Crafts movement, Macintosh, and his wife and collaborator, Margaret McDonald, created some marvelous designs, but neither were successful in their lifetimes.  You can see some influences of Macintosh in the work of later architects and designers, including Frank Lloyd Wright.
Glasgow School of Art showing some smoke damage (the part to the right of the stairs is covered in scaffolding).

We began the day with a tour at the Glasgow School of Art.  Macintosh won the commission for the school design in a competition when he was only a young draftsman at a local architecture firm.  The building was constructed over a period of several years, and Macintosh changed the design during the process, and the building shows the evolution of his work.

Sadly, the art school was badly damaged in a fire a couple of years ago, but amazingly, the interior structure remains intact, so it is being rebuilt.  Much of the furniture and wooden artifacts were lost, but because the building had recently been digitally mapped, it can be restored. Work is progressing, but much more money is needed. Some wealthy benefactors, including actor Brad Pitt, a Macintosh fan, are helping to raise the funds required for the restoration.

Following our insightful tour, we lunched at the Willow Tea Rooms, a recreation of a tearoom that Macintosh designed for a local socialite in 1904.  He even designed the silverware for the original tearoom. The reconstruction offers only standard restaurant flatware, but it was a treat to experience the ambiance of the place.

Upstairs at the Willow Tea Rooms. (The photos of the tea rooms were taken early in the day. When
we returned their for lunch, the place was packed!)

The Willow Tea Rooms, recreated as they were back in the day.

Our final stop was the House for an Art Lover, a 1901 design that Macintosh, with Macdonald’s help, submitted to a competition.  Neither he nor the other competitors won the prize, because of some arcane rule that was not followed, but Macintosh was singled out for recognition and received some prize money.  In 1989-1996, the house was built to the design that Macintosh and his wife had created.

Oh, what I would give to live in this house!

The elegant dining room.

Chair designed by Macintosh.

Light streams into the music room from the balcony.

The piano in the music room.

Ceiling detail from dining room.

What is especially gratifying is to see Margaret Macdonald is finally getting recognized as well as her husband.  In an era when male architects and designers got all the press, she was often overlooked.  Macintosh himself said, “I am a good architect, but Margaret is a genius.”  I think they were both geniuses.

Wall panels built to Margaret's design.

Close up of panel built to Margaret Macdonald's design.

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