Charles Rennie Mackintosh Architecture
A well known Scottish architect, Charles Mackintosh had a huge influence on architecture as
we know it today, especially in his native country. He designed a great many buildings, some
which still stand and are a must visit on any tour of Glasgow, some which remained
unfinished. In 1890 Mackintosh won the Alexander Thompson Travelling Studentship – he
was the second person ever to have won it – which was set up for furthering the study of
ancient classic architecture.
Mackintosh’s style owes a lot to a Japanese influence, which made itself felt in Scotland
during the Industrial Revolution. This was around the time that Japan relaxed its isolationist
regime, when Japanese navy and training engineers worked with shipyards around the River
Clyde. Japanese architecture had a simple style and used natural materials, and the focus
was more on the use of texture, light and shadow rather than excessive ornamentation. It
was this simplicity that Mackintosh admired, and went on to use some of these features in
Mackintosh became known as a pioneer for the Modernist movement, which saw the old
style of heavy ornamentation being left behind; this movement tied in with his admiration
for the more minimalist Japanese style. He developed his own style, using a combination of
strong right angles and subtle curves, yet still managed to include references to old Scottish
architecture as a nod to his roots.
The project that really put him on the map, as it were, was the Glasgow School of Art. This
was begun in 1897 and completed in 1909, funded by a £10,000 donation from the
Bellahouston Trust. Like most of his large undertakings, this project was also marked by
unusually detailed instructions for the decoration and furnishing of the interior –
instructions which have been attributed to Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret Macdonald. The
Mackintosh Building was damaged by a fire in 2016 and was painstakingly restored, using
the original wood species for historical accuracy.
One of Mackintosh’s most famous structures is The Lighthouse, which is now, appropriately,
Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture. The five-storey Lighthouse boasts an
uninterrupted view of Glasgow from the top of its Mackintosh Tower at the north of the
building, which is accessible by a beautiful spiral staircase. As Glasgow attractions go, this
one is definitely worth a visit.
Mackintosh left a great many unfinished projects after his move away from architecture and
subsequent death, including the Railway Terminus, Concert Hall, Exhibition Hall, Science andArt Museum, and Chapter House, Part of the reason for these unfinished projects could be a wane in his popularity, or his disillusionment with architecture itself. Despite his relatively small architectural output, Mackintosh’s work was acclaimed and exhibited in Vienna, Budapest, Dresden, Venice and Moscow. There is no doubt that he had a lasting influence on European design, and many of the styles popular today owe something to the work of C.R. Mackintosh.
On a trip to any country you should celebrate its heroes, so if you are lucky enough to visit
Glasgow then take a moment or several out of your day to visit buildings designed by one of
Scotland’s greatest architects.