Mourning the Mack – again

Mackintosh Building 22nd May 2014

This year is the 150th Birthday of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Glasgow should be celebrating – we were celebrating. There is a wonderful exhibition at Kelvingrove which I’ve seen and enjoyed (and intend to go back to) and just yesterday a new mural was unveiled which I’m hoping to see in person soon. But today I woke up to the news that Mackintosh’s iconic Glasgow School of Art has been hit by fire for the second time in four years. It’s devastating – restoration was going well and the building was due to reopen next year. There are no reports of casualties – thank goodness – but Glasgow mourns all the same.

The picture at the top of the post was taken the day before the first fire – I was one of the last people to visit the Mackintosh Library. I wrote about that experience at the time and was proud to be contacted by the restoration architects because “You have posted a beautiful photograph of the Library Windsor Chair that is really useful as it’s showing the reinforcements done to the original design.” My picture was to be part of their documentation!

The account of my Mackintosh visit is on my long defunct blog Adventures of a Retired Librarian where there are more pictures of what was lost. Last time, a restoration fund was quickly opened up. Today is too early for that, but I’ll keep you posted.

105 Comments »

  1. I am sure the whole of the UK mourns with you for the loss of the Mack. What an unbelievable tragedy, and to happen so soon after the last fire. News now is that it can be repaired, to an extent, and we all hope that this can be done.

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  2. I thought of you when I heard about this devastating news and hope it is not a lost cause. I also hope it isn’t arson but I wonder since this is the second time.

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    • In a way, I almost hope it is. Almost. An arsonist has no conscience presumably. If a contractor has made a terrible mistake, imagine the guilt that person will feel! On the other hand, if it’s arson and the person isn’t caught, other buildings are at risk. It’s awful.

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  3. I really enjoyed the recent programme on TV about his life but I also highly rate lesser known Scottish architects/ artists like Thomson and William Leiper who produced buildings of equal merit and great beauty but are not valued in the same way. It’s all a matter of personal taste but I’ve never liked the outside of Hill House or House for an Art Lover- concrete monstrosities both. I do like Margaret Macdonald’s work inside his buildings yet his wife rarely gets equal billing, even today but you can see her influence on Gustav Klimt during his gold period in the Kiss and other paintings. To me, (as he said himself) she’s the real star but it’s like music- everyone has a different opinion on it and current fashion and trends play a huge part.

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    • You’re right – CRM said “Margaret has genius, I have only talent”. I think she is maybe becoming more valued now as is Thomson. I don’t know much about Leiper’s work other than Templeton’s. I don’t agree about Hill House etc – I find them beautiful! It’s undoubtedly true that the Art School is a Glasgow icon though, and will be sadly missed if it goes. As one article I read said it might be the only Art School in the world where the building is worthy of the subject.

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  4. I have seen the photographs taken from the air and they are not terribly encouraging – but – Glasgow has a lot of clever and skilled people, so I wouldn’t write it off just yet.

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    • It’s hard to be optimistic. However, they built House for an Art Lover from Mackintosh’s plans not that long ago, and they have all the plans for the Art School too (the archives were rescued in the first fire) so you never know. Some people thought rebuilding the Library was a waste of time because it wasn’t authentic, but it was the design that counted – Mackintosh didn’t use expensive materials. Though of course, you will never again get the feeling “he touched this”.

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  5. Such sad news about the Art School – it seems odd that they should have another devastating fire while they are rebuilding after the last one. A dreadful case of bad luck? On a more positive note – how proud you must feel that they used some of your photos to help them with their previous restoration work.

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