Mackintosh lovers often enquire about Glasgow tours featuring the Glasgow School of Art. This prestigious building was founded in 1845, and as such it holds a very strong place in the hearts and minds of the Scottish, and everyone from other nationalities who studied there.
The building began its life as the Glasgow Government School of Design, but changed from this clunky moniker in 1853 to what it is known as today. Initially it was located at 12 Ingram Street, but moved to the McLellan Galleries in 1869. In 1897, work began on a new building that was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a notable Scottish architect. This project was funded by a £10,000 donation from the Bellahouston Trust, and was completed in 1909.
In 2009, an international architectural competition was held, which was won by Steven Holl Architects, to find a team led by an architect that could develop the Campus Masterplan and design the Phase 1 building. This team resulted in the Reid Building on a site that had been occupied by the Foulis, Assembly and Newbery Tower Buildings.
The famous Mackintosh building, which had stood since 1909, was severely damaged by a fire in May 2014. It was believed that the fire was started by a projector exploding, but it was later discovered to be a can of expanding foam that was placed too close to a hot projector.
It turns out that the design of the Mackintosh building, with its timber lined walls and original ventilation ducts, contributed greatly to the spread of the fire, as did the fact that fire and smoke dampers had not been retrofitted to the building. 90% of the building and 70% of the contents were saved, but the renowned library was utterly destroyed.
More misfortune lay in wait for the Mackintosh Building, as it was once again struck by fire in 2018, causing extensive damage. It was considered at first that there was no way the building could be saved as it had sustained too much damage, but a Glasgow City Council spokesperson has been quoted as saying that the building is salvageable – and as it has been voted Britain’s most important building several times over, it is certainly to be hoped so!
Glasgow School of Art is a thriving institution, and it produces some of the finest artists, textile works, jewellery and digital designers in the world. It has been ranked in the top 10 of specialist educational institutions, and the top specialist visual arts institution, by The Guardian’s university guide. It has one of the lowest student dropout rates in the UK, which is a great accolade! It has a partner institution in Singapore, which has been established since 2012, so its reach is stretching farther and farther.
Although a visit to the Glasgow School of Art isn’t an official part of one our Glasgow Private Tours it’s such an integral part of Glasgow’s culture we thought it was worth a special mention. Perhaps you can visit it after one of our Glasgow walking tours.
The school regularly holds exhibitions and events, and until the 2014 fire the Mackintosh Building was open to the general public. You can still visit the Degree Show, where studios are open to the public, but it is no longer held in the Mackintosh Building. As Glasgow attractions go, the world famous Glasgow School of Art is right up there with one of the most culturally interesting and beautiful places to visit.