Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1868 and his unique, innovative style would change the art world forever. However, life was not always easy for Charles and from childhood he suffered from disabilities which would remain with him for a lifetime.

He walked with a limp and developed a problem with his right eye which caused it to droop. Because of these disabilities Charles was encouraged to spend time in the countryside when he was young.

It was his love of the countryside and flora which was to manifest itself later in his life. Mackintosh enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art at the age of fifteen. A year later he joined John Hutchison architectural practice to train as a draughtsman. After completing his apprenticeship he moved to Honeyman and Keppie in 1889. In 1890 Charles won the coveted ‘Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship’ for Public Design. With his prize of £60 he decided to travel to Italy and Europe.

This trip was to change his life and he was to develop an individual style, influenced greatly by his experiences in Europe. Mackintosh also looked to Japanese Art which added a depth to his new found ideas.

Mackintosh continued his studies at the renowned Glasgow School of Art where the new principal Francis Newbery had transformed the School. He encouraged the students to follow the latest trends in art, design, crafts and architecture.

It was here that Charles Rennie Mackintosh met fellow artist Margaret MacDonald who would have a profound influence on his life. Together with Margaret’s sister Frances and fellow artist Herbert Mac Nair the two couples were known as the “The Four” and formed the ‘Glasgow Style’ – both couples were later to marry.

Margaret MacDonald (5 November 1865–10 January 1933)

Born Margaret MacDonald, near Wolverhampton, her father was a colliery manager and engineer. By 1890 the family had settled in Glasgow and Margaret and her sister, Frances MacDonald, enrolled as students at the Glasgow School of Art. There she worked in a variety of media, including metalwork, embroidery, and textiles.

She was first a collaborator with her sister, and later with her husband.  Her most dynamic works are large gesso panels made for the interiors that she designed with Mackintosh, such as the  Willow Tearooms and private residences.

She exhibited with Mackintosh at the 1900 Vienna Secession, where she was arguably an influence on the Secessionists Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffmann.

Macdonald, along with her sister, is one of the many “marginalized wives” that have suffered from patriarchal art historical discourse. She was celebrated in her time by many of her peers, including her husband who once wrote in a letter to Margaret “Remember, you are half if not three-quarters of all my architectural… and reportedly “Margaret has genius, I have only talent.”

It is not known exactly which of Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s works Margaret was involved with (or the extent to which she worked on them) but she is credited with being an important part of her husband’s figurative, symbolic interior designs. Many of these were executed at the early part of the twentieth century; and include the Rose Boudoir at the International Exhibition at Turin in 1903, the designs for House for an Art Lover in 1900, and the Willow Tea Rooms in 1902.

Sadly, poor health cut short Margaret’s career–as far as we know, she produced no work after 1921. She died in 1933, five years after her husband.

Her best known works include the gesso panel The May Queen, which was made to partner Mackintosh’s panel The Wassail for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms, and Oh ye, all ye that walk in Willowood, which formed part of the decorative scheme for the Room de Luxe in the Willow Tearooms. All three of these are now on display in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.

They continued to work successfully together until 1899 when Frances and MacNair married and moved to Liverpool. This was the year that Mackintosh started his great architectural project the Glasgow School of Art.

Glasgow School of Art

While the building of The Glasgow School of Art is rightly associated with the innovative work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh during the late 1890s, early 1900s, the origins of the School predate this by some 50 years.

The School was originally founded in January 1845 as Glasgow's Government School of Design. Forty years later in 1885 Francis Newbery became headmaster and under his energetic direction the Glasgow School of Art and Haldane Academy (as it was then known) expanded so considerably that a new larger building was required.

In 1896 an architectural competition took place for the building of a new Glasgow School of Art on a site offered to the School's directors by the Bellahouston trustees. Working to a budget of just £14,000, the Glasgow firm of Honeyman and Keppie submitted a design from the hand of one of their junior draughtsmen, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Sympathetic to Mackintosh's intentions, the design was praised by Newbery and after being independently assessed by the educational authorities in London, was finally accepted.

It was clear, however, that the funds available were insufficient to complete the building as both Newbery and more importantly as Mackintosh had intended it. Somewhat reluctantly it was decided that work should proceed on the central and eastern half of the building only and that construction of the west wing would be entirely dependent on securing additional funds. Building work commenced in 1897 and by December 1899 the first phase of the School had been completed including the Museum, the Director's Room and Board Room.

It took Newbery and School's Board of Governors a further eight years to secure the financial means to complete Mackintosh's scheme. In the meantime, Mackintosh was invited back by the School to rework his original drawings and a series of alterations and extensions were made including the provision of a new second floor of studios and additional workshops accommodated into a sub-basement floor.

Work started on the second half of the building in 1907 and by December 1909 it had been completed. In total contrast to the earlier austere facades to the south and east, the west wing with its dramatic design and dominating windows heralded the birth of a new style in 20th century European architecture. Internally the most dramatic of interiors was reserved for the Library with its decorated balcony and central cluster of electric lights.

Today the Glasgow School of Art is widely considered to be Mackintosh's Masterwork.

Since completion over 100 years ago, the Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art fulfilled its original purpose as a working art school, housing the fine art students and staff, at the heart of GSA's campus on Garnethill.

On the 23d of May 2014 a fire damaged the west wing of the Mackintosh building including some studios, the Library and some archival stores.


Hill House, Helensburgh

Hill House in Helensburgh, Scotland is one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's most famous works, probably second only to Glasgow School of Art. It was designed and built for the publisher Walter Blackie in 1902 – 1904.

In addition to the house itself, Mackintosh also designed most of the interior rooms, furniture and other fixings. Mackintosh's attention to detail even extended to prescribing the colour of cut flowers that the Blackies might place on a table in the living room, so as not to clash with the rest of the décor.

In 1982 the house was donated to the National Trust for Scotland which continues to maintain it and manage visitors. The top floor is leased to the Landmark Trust and is used as holiday accommodation.

The Client

To the west of Glasgow, Helensburgh was the new settlement area for those whose business wealth came from the crowded, industrialised city. In 1902, the publisher Walter Blackie purchased a lot in the neighbourhood. After a suggestion from his friend Talwin Morris, Mackintosh was appointed to design and build the future home of the Blackie’s family:  The Hill House.

At first Walter was surprised with the youthfulness of the architect, until he visited one of the houses Mackintosh had previously designed and was convinced that this was the right person to build his home. Although a few restrictions were still imposed by the owner: no bricks and plaster and wood beams construction, and no red-tiled roof, as seen in the rest of the traditional west of Scotland.

Instead, Blackie asked for grey rough cast for the walls, and slate for the roof; and that any architectural effect sought to be secured by the massing of the parts rather than by adventitious ornaments. The few requirements and the non-traditional, ornamental taste of the client himself allowed Mackintosh to give full life to his design ideas.

Prior to creating an elevation drawing or even a floor plan, Mackintosh spent a few days in the former house of the Blackies to observe their everyday life; to build from the inside out. By profoundly analysing the family’s habits Mackintosh would be able to design every aspect of the house according to the needs of each user.

He believed the functional issues should firstly be solved then let the beauty aspect evolve from the solution. The result could only be one of an extremely satisfied client: “to larder, kitchen, laundry etc. he gave minute attention to fit them for practical needs, and always pleasingly designed. Every detail, inside as well as outside, received his careful, I might say loving, attention. Mackintosh believed this was the only honest way of designing.

The house is reportedly haunted and a staff member described a tall slender figure dressed in black with a long black cape that appeared from Mr Blackie's Dressing Room. Upon entering the White Bedroom the figure vanished.

The exterior

The uniform and greyish exterior treatment of the building blends in with the cold cloudy sky of Scotland. The completely asymmetrical construction forms different roof levels and shapes, and also records Mackintosh’s appreciation for A. W. N. Pugin’s picturesque utility where the exterior contour evolves from the interior planning. The minimum decoration, heavy walls, and rectangular and square windows express a strong, sober construction. The exterior qualities of the building are nearly the opposite of the warm, exotic, carefully decorated and smooth interior. Again, Mackintosh relates to Pugin’s theory by minimizing exterior decoration to emphasize the interior design: the transition from the outside world into a safe, fantastic inside space.

The mansion combined the Edwardian period’s traditional ‘femininity’ of an intimate, inside space, with the ‘masculinity’ of the exterior public world, both uncommonly used throughout the interior of the building. To Mackintosh, bringing the masculine aspects to the inside would break away from the over decorated, entirely feminine conventional interiors. This allowed him to convey different feelings and experiences depending on the purpose of each space. Mackintosh used different materials, colours and lighting, when necessary to perform a full experiential transition from one point to another. All in such an elegant and well planned manner, that with the absence of one the other would mar.

The Willow Tearooms, Glasgow

Catherine Cranston (27 May 1849 – 18 April 1934), widely known as Kate Cranston or Miss Cranston, was a leading figure in the development of tea rooms. She is nowadays chiefly remembered as a major patron of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret MacDonald. The name of Miss Cranston's Tea Rooms lives on in reminiscences of Glasgow in its heyday.

Her father, George Cranston, was a baker and pastry maker and, in 1849, the year of her birth, he became proprietor of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Chop House and Commercial Lodgings at No. 39 George Square in Glasgow city centre.  The hotel was renamed the Royal Horse, then renamed again in May 1852 to become Cranston's Hotel and Dining Rooms, offering:

"Convenient Coffee room and detached Smoking Rooms on Ground Floor, commodious Commercial Room and Parlour, comfortable Bed-rooms and Baths, &c. Coffee always ready. Cigars, wines, spirits, ales, Newspapers, Time-Tables, Writing Materials. Superior and varied Bill of Fare at the usual moderate charges."

Her slightly older brother Stuart (1848–1921) became a tea dealer and, according to Glasgow in 1901, was "a pioneer of the business" there of "tea shops pure and simple" who by 1901 had three such tearooms offering nothing more substantial to eat than a sandwich. Kate went on to create much more of a social facility.

Like other cities in the United Kingdom, Glasgow was then a centre of the temperance movement which sought an alternative to male-centred pubs. Tea had previously been a luxury for the rich, but from the 1830s it was promoted as an alternative to alcoholic drinks, and many new cafés and coffee houses were opened, catering more for ordinary people. However it was not until the 1880s that tea rooms and tea shops became popular and fashionable.

In 1878 Miss Kate Cranston opened her first tearoom, the Crown Luncheon Room, on Argyle Street, Glasgow. She set high standards of service, food quality and cleanliness, and her innovation lay in seeing the social need for something more than a restaurant or a simple "tea shop", and in putting equal attention into providing amenities designed in the latest style. Her first tearoom was decorated in a contemporary baronial style. On 16 September 1886 she opened her Ingram Street tearoom and in 1888 commissioned George Walton to decorate a new smoking room in the Arts and Crafts style in one of her tea rooms.

In 1892 she became happily married to John Cochrane, but continued to trade under the name of Miss Cranston's Tearooms. She opened new tearooms in Buchanan Street in 1897 (designed by George Washington Browne), expanded to take over the whole building in Argyle Street by 1898 (designed by H and D Barclay]), then completed her chain of four establishments with the Willow Tearooms (by Charles Rennie Mackintosh) in Sauchiehall Street, opened in 1903.

The city was a centre of artistic innovation at the time, and the tearooms served as art galleries for paintings by the "Glasgow Boys". The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens visited the Buchanan Street tearoom in 1898, finding it "just a little outré", and wrote from there to his wife that "Miss Cranston is now Mrs. Cochrane, a dark, fat wee body with black sparkling luminous eyes, wears a bonnet garnished with roses, and has made a fortune by supplying cheap clean goods in surroundings prompted by the New Art Glasgow School."

Mackintosh BuchananTearooms Frieze


Mackintosh's design for the frieze at the Buchanan Street tearoom.

George Walton set up George Walton & Co, Ecclesiastical and House Decorators on the basis of his 1888 commission from Kate Cranston, and in 1896 was commissioned by her to design the interiors of new tearooms, designed and built by George Washington Browne of Edinburgh, at 91–93 Buchanan Street, which opened the following year. He was assisted in this by Charles Rennie Mackintosh who designed wall murals in the form of stencilled friezes depicting opposing pairs of elongated female figures surrounded by roses for the ladies' tearoom, the luncheon room and the smokers' gallery.

"It is believed (and averred) that in no other town can you see in a place of refreshment such ingenious and beautiful decorations in the style of the new art as in Miss Cranston's shop in Buchanan Street. Indeed, so general in the city is this belief that it has caused the Glasgow man of the better sort to coin a new adjective denoting the height of beauty... 'It's quite Kate Cranston-ish !' "

Kate Cranston expanded her first tearoom to take over the whole building at 114 Argyle Street and commissioned Walton to design a new more modern interior, which opened in 1898. Walton's work included fireplaces, stencilled wall murals and stained glass panels for the doors. In the luncheon room the murals and door panels had a rose pattern theme. The furniture was designed by Mackintosh, introducing for the first time his characteristic high-backed chairs.

In 1900 Kate Cranston gave Mackintosh the opportunity to redesign an entire room, at the Ingram Street tearoom. He had just recently married the artist Margaret MacDonald, and together they created the White Dining Room, including a hallway opening onto the street and divided off by a wooden screen with leaded glass panels, giving those entering glimpses into the room itself. His fame was spreading, and in 1902 The Studio wrote of "Miss Cranston, whose tea-rooms, designed by Mr. Mackintosh, are reckoned by some of the pilgrims to Glasgow as one of the sights of the city."

The Willow Tearooms189px Room de Luxe waitresses

 Miss Cranston's waitresses, seen in the Room de Luxe of the Willow Tea Rooms.

Next Kate Cranston gave Mackintosh the major commission for an entire building in Sauchiehall Street, again in collaboration with his wife Margaret MacDonald on designs for the interiors. Behind a strikingly simple new façade this building provided three interlinked main tearooms at the ground floor and on a first floor gallery, with steps from that leading up a further half-storey to the famous "Room de Luxe" stretching the width of the building above the main entrance and front tearoom.


.Although the Willow Tearooms completed her chain, and remains the most famous of her tea rooms, Kate Cranston carried out several more projects, and Mackintosh provided increasingly innovative designs. In 1904 she commissioned him to carry out the redecoration and design of new furniture for the mansion of Hous'hill in Nitshill which was home to herself and her husband John Cochrane.

Mackintosh carried out further work on the Argyle Street tearoom in 1906 to design a basement conversion to form The Dutch kitchen. He did further redesigns for rooms in the Ingram Street tearooms, creating the Cloister Room and the Chinese Room in 1911. The latter provides an exotic fantasy, with bright blue finished timber screens incorporating a cashier's kiosk, elaborate door lintels and dark blue finished furniture, all in Mackintosh's version of an oriental style.320px Cranstons exhibition cafe

Menu design by Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh

In the same year Kate Cranston provided temporary "Exhibition Cafes" at the Scottish International Exhibition, apparently set up and designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, though nothing is now known of his scheme for this. The menu card designed by Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh shows the name for the tearooms, The White Cockade, but makes no visual connection with this reference to Jacobitism. It gives credit for supply of cakes to Miss Cranston’s Bakery, 292 St Vincent St., Glasgow.


In 1917 Mackintosh carried out his last commission for Kate Cranston, and indeed one of his last architectural works to be constructed, with the design of an extension of the Willow Tea Rooms into the basement of the building next door to create The Dug Out in a style that anticipated Art Deco.

While Mackintosh's reputation was eclipsed by the 1920s, he was later recognised as a pioneer of modern architecture, particularly in terms of the exterior of the Willow Tea Rooms. In the 1960s a resurgence of interest in Art Nouveau brought him international fame, and the furniture and designs he and his wife created for Kate Cranston are now extremely valuable.Mackintosh Willow Tearooms Interior Study 1917

Design for The Dug Out


Scotland Street School, Glasgow

Scotland Street School Museum is a museum of school education in Glasgow, in the district of Tradeston. It is located in a former School designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1903 and 1906. The building is one of Glasgow's foremost architectural attractions..

During the building's construction, Mackintosh frequently battled the school board about the design (the board wanted a less expensive design). The total cost for the building was £34,291, which was over budget. The building features a pair of windowed Scottish baronial style tower staircases. The school, which also served Tradeston, was designed for an enrolment of 1,250. However, by the 1970s the area was experiencing urban decay, and the school's enrolment fell to under 100. The school closed in 1979.

Mackintosh based the design of the school on Rowallan Castle in Ayrshire and Falkland Palace.

The museum features a wide range of activities and exhibits. The public are given the chance to participate in a Victorian classroom situation.

Scotland Street runs E.–W. through the district of Tradeston, between the River Clyde and the Glasgow to Paisley railway. The O.S. map of 1896 shows a

grid of streets on its N. side lined with tenements, and it was to serve the residents of this densely populated area that the School Board of Glasgow chose Scotland Street for the site of a new school.

By 22 June 1903 the Board had decided to appoint 'Mr Mackintosh of Honeyman, Keppie and Mackintosh' as architect, although the official letter of confirmation was not sent until 21 August. It appears that no competition was held, and it is unclear how the commission was awarded. By this date the practice had worked on several projects for the Board.

 Mackintosh's design was revised a number of times in response to comments from the Board and the Scotch Education Department (which provided a loan to finance construction). Initial drawings, which do not appear to survive, were submitted on 2 November 1903, but the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court did not

finally give its approval until 24 November the following year. There were further revisions to the design of the janitor's house and boundary wall, approved in February 1905.

 The building was first occupied on 4 August 1906. The Board's minutes and letters make clear that the independent-minded Mackintosh was not easy to deal with, and in October and November 1905 he was severely reprimanded for departing from the agreed plans, the Board threatening to hold the practice liable for any additional costs incurred.

 Design - Exterior

The Scotch Education Department insisted on separate entrances and staircases for boys and girls, which automatically favoured a symmetrical, bilateral plan and elevations. Within these constraints, however, Mackintosh produced a design that is far from conventional. The N. front is dominated by a pair of projecting, conical-roofed towers, containing the two main entrances and giving access to two staircases. The towers flank a central, three-storey block, with a small entrance porch for infants in the middle: the ground floor here is occupied by the drill hall, used for physical exercise.


Immediately E. and W. of the towers, the roof level is lower but the number of storeys increases to five: these relatively low-ceilinged floors, which step back from the building line as they rise, correspond to the landings and half-landings of the stairs, and contain children's cloakrooms. They are book-ended by three-storey bays containing teachers' rooms, set back still further from the main building line.

The much simpler 18-bay S. front has no projections and no variations in roofline.


Unusually for Mackintosh, it is almost classical in composition: the uniform windows of conventional, upright proportions are regularly disposed, the middle and end bays emphasised by ornament. The centre of the N. elevation is similar, with a cornice-like string-course above the first floor, making the top storey read as an attic.

The E. and W. ends, by contrast, seem to derive from Scottish vernacular architecture, their asymmetrical gables and large expanses of blank wall punctured by variously shaped windows and shallow, canted oriels.

 Towers and windows

The towers are rooted in Scottish architectural tradition (they can be compared with the conical-roofed towers of Falkland Palace, Fife, which Mackintosh sketched c. 1900) but at the same time they subvert this tradition.  In 16th- and 17th-century Scottish architecture, round towers invariably contain spiral stairs and have thick, defensive walls and small windows.

The Scotland Street towers, on the other hand, are more glass than stone, and while they light the stairs, they do not enclose them. They are in fact semi-cylindrical bay windows, their leaded glazing divided into narrow strips by slender mullions, and they have more in common with the windows of Elizabethan houses.

In the January 1904 drawings for Scotland Street, the semi-transparent towers were matched by a huge window, 12 ft (3.65 m) high and 44 ft (13.41 m) long,

lighting the drill hall. The lintel of this giant horizontal opening would have been carried on slender cast-iron columns, standing on the window sill and visible only from inside. From outside, the impression would have been of a shimmering, uninterrupted expanse of leaded glazing.

This extraordinary proposal, comparable to the fenestration of the Willow Tea Rooms and the unexecuted billiard room for The Hill House, but on a much larger scale, appears to have been vetoed by the Scotch Education Department.

In the drawings of August 1904, seven sash windows of conventional proportions were substituted, matching the floors above. The elaborate perspective drawing of 1904 shows that Mackintosh wanted all the windows to have small, square panes. This was opposed by the School Board, who insisted on windows divided into larger panes. These survive on the S. elevation, but on the N., windows like those in the perspective were introduced during refurbishment in 1989–90.


Surprisingly, the School Board's stringent approach to costs did not eliminate Mackintosh's elaborate programme of carved decoration, carried out by R. A.

McGilvray & Ferris. Concentrated around the entrances and towards the top of the building, it breaks up what might otherwise be a top-heavy mass of stonework.

It has been suggested that the carved decoration rising up the stair towers and the rear elevation evokes themes of the tree of life and the tree of knowledge and connects with that of childhood development from infancy to maturity, reflecting the progress of pupils from ground to first to second floor in the course of their years at the school. But no evidence has emerged to link this to Mackintosh's intentions.

On the S. front, the two end bays are emphasised by extraordinary carved mouldings, largely geometric, but incorporating roundels of stylised organic forms above the ground-floor windows. Between the middle pair of second-floor windows is a Scottish thistle composed of triangles, and a chequered Tree of Life, both apparently influenced by contemporary Viennese decorative art.  Coloured ceramic squares set into the stonework complement the carving.

On the N. front, the stubby, square piers flanking the infants' porch have grids of squares and triangles on their capitals.

The boys' and girls' entrances are set within cubic projections, low and broad, seemingly extruded from the tower bases, and framed by heavy, angular architraves. The carving here has no obvious historical source, but includes unexpected triplets of square guttae, like those found in Edwardian baroque versions of the Doric order. The tops of the towers are enlivened by rows of inverted V shapes, resembling paired sycamore seeds, arranged against close-set vertical mouldings 'like notes on a musical stave' (in Alan Crawford's phrase).  The carving is echoed by comparable motifs in stained glass, set into the tower windows.


Inside, an E.–W. corridor runs almost the full length of each floor, connecting with the stairs at each end. This arrangement was unusual for Glasgow, where central-hall plans like that of Martyrs School were the norm, but it had the advantage of maximising the number of well-lit S.-facing classrooms. Indeed, classrooms occupy all three floors on the S. side, plus the two upper floors on the N. On the ground floor of the N. side is the drill hall.

From the interior, it is obvious at once that the stairs are not contained in the rounded, glazed part of the towers, but set behind the main building line. The stone treads are carried on exposed ironwork and rise in straight flights in a conventional dog-leg pattern. The half landings are treated as internal balconies, looking into the glazed void, which extends uninterrupted from ground level to the open timber roof.

The Scotch Education Department did not allow 'triangular steps or "winders"', presumably on safety grounds, but it seems certain that the straight flights and balcony-landings were an aesthetic choice on Mackintosh's part: he resisted pressure to extend the half-landings into the rounded bays, which the School Board prosaically argued would make window-cleaning easier, no doubt because it would have destroyed the uninterrupted flow of light and space that was the crux of his design.

Apart from the towers, the most interesting interior space is the bright but austere drill hall. It is enclosed E., S. and W. by colonnades of piers linked by low walls (the openings between the piers were blocked during the Second World War but opened up again by 1990, restoring the original views through to the stairs and corridor).

Mezzanine floors cut across the W. and E. ends at the level of the half-landings. Piers, corridors and stairs are all tiled, mostly in cream, the borders of the openings picked out in broken lines of black. Blue is used for the piers at mezzanine level, green for the capitals, which have a vaguely Egyptian, zig-zag profile. Mackintosh originally wanted all the tiling to be 'dark', but the School Board overruled him.

The N. side of the hall is visually of a piece with the colonnaded treatment of the other three, the residual strips of sandstone wall between the windows reading as square piers.

Scottish Education Department rules determined the 8 ft (2.44 m) standard width of the corridors and the size of the 21 classrooms in relation to numbers of pupils.  They are mostly 25 x 24 ft (7.62 x 7.32 m), giving ten square feet for each pupil. The school was designed with capacity for 1250 pupils, though attendance in the first ten years averaged between 800 and 900. Dividing walls between classrooms are solid below, glazed above, but the middle two classrooms on each floor of the S. side were originally separated by folding partitions, and could be thrown together to form single, large rooms. Only one original sliding partition survives, on the first floor.

The former cookery room, which fills the space between the towers on the N. side of the second floor, is the only classroom that shows something of Mackintosh's individuality. Its shallow vaulted ceiling pushes up against the trusses of the roof to maximise the height of the room, but Mackintosh may also have intended it to evoke the barrel-vaulted basement kitchens of Scottish tower houses.

Materials and services

External walls are of red Locharbriggs sandstone ashlar, with slate for the roofs. Mackintosh wanted white Dullatur stone, but he was overruled on grounds of cost.  The floors throughout are of reinforced concrete, carried on steel girders of the type patented by John Burdon & Sons of Bellshill. Heating was by low pressure hot water, and contaminated air was extracted by Boyle's Air Pump Ventilators on the roof. The school was lit by electricity from the outset.

Subsidiary structures

The boundary between the N. playground and Scotland Street has two wide stone entrance arches for boys and girls and a blind stretch of wall in the middle. This is carved with the school's name, and serves also to screen the infants' toilet block, a flat-roofed structure within the playground. Between the arches and the central wall are railings incorporating wrought-iron motifs, sometimes interpreted as thistles.

The boundary wall enclosing the S. playground is utilitarian brick; that for the N. playground is largely stone. On the E. side, a semicircular stone arch supporting an arched bellcote links it to the school; on the S., play shelters and toilets for older children are built against it.

Integral with the N. boundary wall is the L-plan janitor's house, a picturesque cottage resembling the lodge of a country house, with deep eaves and a cat-slide roof over the door. Its walls are of snecked rubble, adding to its rustic character. The design dates from December 1904, replacing a proposal of January that year for a simpler rectangular house with a circular stair-tower on the S. side.

Critical reception

The Builders' Journal and Architectural Engineer published photographs and a description of the school some six weeks after it opened.  It noted the glazed towers, 'which give such an unusual appearance to the front', and observed that 'The architects were Messrs. Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh, but it is clear that the last-named has controlled the design'.

It also commented on the simple, functional character of the interior: 'In designing the school every effort has been made to arrive at a frank solution of the requirements, the furnishings and fittings of the classrooms being of the simplest character, and glazed tiles used as a sanitary finishing to walls and piers.'

Reviewing the impressive perspective drawing shown in the 1906 exhibition of the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts (974), the critic of the Glasgow Herald described the building as 'distinctly away from the commonplace', contrasting it with schools at Dalmuir and Bowling that were 'happily less original'.  He noted that the 'two flanking round towers make up a good composition, and window space is abundant', but questioned the functional relationship between exterior and interior, remarking that '[a] key plan would have shown how the towers are utilised'. Perhaps in response to this criticism, when the drawing was reproduced in Academy Architecture's coverage of the exhibition it was accompanied by floor plans.


Inspired by the portfolio drawings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1901.

House for an Art Lover has a fascinating history which defines the pioneering creativity of its designer and the ambition and ingenuity of a group of dedicated artists and engineers who worked to complete his vision more than 70 years later.

In 1901 Mackintosh, Glasgow’s most famous architect, entered a competition to design a “Haus Eines Kunstfreundes” or “Art Lovers House” set by German design magazine “Zeitschrift Fur Innendekoration”.

The rules of the competition stated that only “genuinely original modern designs will be considered”. It went on to make the somewhat unusual proposition that ‘it is permissible and even desirable that an Architect and a Decorative Artist of modern tastes develop and submit the design jointly’, a situation which more than suited Mackintosh who worked on the project with his new wife, Margaret Macdonald.

The rules were comprehensive and included a specification of client requirements such as room sizes, position of staircases, external finishes and a maximum cost. Within these practical constraints, Mackintosh and Macdonald were able to exercise considerable freedom of design expression.

In the end, although Mackintosh was lauded for his competition design, his entry was disqualified on the grounds of a technical breach of the rules as he was late in submitting certain interior views of the house. The judges, however, were impressed by Mackintosh’s entry commending it for its distinctive colouring, impressive design and cohesiveness of inner and outer construction.

Hermann Muthesius, a leading architecture critic of the day, praised the design saying; ‘…it exhibits an absolutely original character, unlike anything else known. In it we shall not find a trace of the conventional forms of architecture to which the artist, as far as his present intentions were concerned, was quite indifferent.’

For more than 80 years Mackintosh’s concept remained merely that, an unrealised design on paper, until, in 1989, Graham Roxburgh, the Consulting Engineer responsible for restoring Mackintosh interiors in nearby Craigie Hall, had the idea to finally build the House for an Art Lover.

The drawings which Mackintosh produced, although very detailed for a competition entry, were not intended as technical plans from which an actual house would be built and the task of interpreting and turning them into reality was the challenge which faced Roxburgh’s team of architects, led by Professor Andy MacMillan, then Head of Architecture at Mackintosh’s world-renowned Glasgow School of Art.

Work began on building the House in 1989, but before the first brick could be laid lots of detective work was needed to fill the gaps where Mackintosh’s drawings which showed only the sketchiest details. In some places there were inconsistencies between the exterior and interior form of the building and MacMillan and his team had to pick their wits to resolve the plan of the House and flesh out details for the interiors. Other buildings which Mackintosh had completed during his lifetime were crucial in providing clues for the House for an Art Lover.

Roxburgh’s dream finally became a reality in 1990 when the building exterior and much of the interior and craftwork were completed by his remarkable team of architects, designers, builders and craftsmen.

However, recession in the early Nineties forced the project to be temporarily halted. Interior work and landscaping resumed in 1994, revived by collaboration between Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow School of Art and the house was finally opened to the public in 1996.


“REASON INFORMED BY EMOTION….expressed in Beauty…elevated by earnestness, lightened by humour, that is the ideal that should guide all artists” Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Later Life

The couple moved to England (1914-1922) where he produced many beautiful watercolour paintings, but unfortunately Charles was unable to secure much work in the way of lucrative commissions for his architectural skills.

Having holidayed in the south of France in 1923, Margaret and Charles decided to move there permanently in 1925, due in part to financial hardship.

It was here that Charles would create a portfolio of beautiful landscape watercolour paintings during this time. The couple remained in France until 1927, when illness forced them to return to London.

Sadly Charles was later diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer. He was admitted to a nursing home where he died on December 10, 1928 at the age of 60. Margaret passed away on 10 January 1933, five years after her beloved husband Charles.

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