Glasgow, City of Contradictions

Glasgow is one of this odd cities, where opposites meet time and time again. It has some of the best architecture in Scotland, and some of the ugliest buildings you´ve ever seen. People are nice, helpful, funny, friendly, but then again it has the highest crime rate in Scotland.

There is no doubt though that Glasgow is moving forward, and embracing changes in all levels. However every now and then it is good to look back and see some of those places that make the city great. One of them is the Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Located in the city centre, the Glasgow School of Art has seen some of the top artists in the world study inside its walls. Turner Prize nominees, fashion designers, singers… Although today I don´t want to talk about its alumni as much as I want to talk about the building.

The half further away was the one built first, and from the outside it resembles a Scottish castle.

The Glasgow School of Art design was Charles Rennie Mackintosh first commission, and probably, his most important one. The School was built in two stages, first one from 1897 to 1899; and the second one from 1907 – 1909. This was due to the fact that they run out of money after the first part and had to raise more to continue with the construction of the building.

This also means that there are two easily differentiated spaces, which shows how Mackintosh tastes and designs evolved from one stage to the next. At times the building can be compared to a castle, with big fireplaces, high ceilings and wooden walls.

One of the rooms, the one used by the Board for meetings, was (according to them) too feminine. White is the main colour in this room, and as you can image, it wasn´t the most used colour back then.

But most of Mackintosh inspiration came from nature. Seeds growing to plants and these giving flowers. His famous Mackintosh rose can be seeing in different places at the School too. One of the stories that gets my attention the most is that on the corridors of the first floor there are spaces on the walls where to put vases. His idea was that every morning somebody would go walking around the building, putting flowers in all those vases.

Obviously this never happened as the cost, time and effort of that task was to high to handle.

The images below belong to the Library, built in the second part of the project. All the furniture was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh himself. Always bare in mind this was designed and built at the beginning of 1900, but how modern does it look? Isn´t it amazing to think that somebody back then had such a vision?

Mackintosh was a master of light, he knew how to use it and it is one of the main elements in all his buildings. The School of Art is incredibly bright at times, and incredibly dark at others. For example the stairs going to the third floor are really dark, but when you are at the top you find the “hen run”, a corridor with all windows on one side, connecting different artist studios.

Another curious thing is that there is a master clock, that it is the one that controls all the other clocks in the building. When they have to change the time, instead of having to do it one by one, they just go to the master one and voila! all clocks are on time!

If you are interested in learning more about Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow School of Art, you can take one of their public tours, where students explain the history of the building, and talk you through the intricate designs and features of the building.

I have to admit I had never heard of Mackintosh before I moved to Glasgow, but now I never get tired of discovering more of his work and learn more about his designs.

Had you ever heard of Charles Rennie Mackintosh before? Had you been to any of his buildings in Glasgow? If so, which one is your favourite?

Thank you for reading!