Unique in so many ways

Unique graphic

Yesterday in Scotland we watched in horror the images on our TVs, computers and phones showing Glasgow School of Art being swallowed by flames.

A number of years ago, my husband and I visited the art school, previously only admired from the outside. It’s difficult to describe the interior of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building; iconic is overused, yet it’s the only word I can find to describe a design that was both Scottish and European, distinctive yet with a modern edge even today.

Mackintosh is lauded as Scotland’s most influential architect and designer, and the art school building, completed in 1909, is considered his greatest masterpiece, a unique working art school as well as a unique work of art in its own right.

For me, it doesn’t detract from this to say that Hill House in Helensburgh, a house built on the Clyde coast for a Scottish book publisher, is pretty magical too, though on a different scale.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s art school is considered a treasure, a work of architectural heritage of world renown, with its influence on 20th century architecture believed immeasurable. The building facade and the fixtures and fittings all sing of the genius of Scotland’s most-lauded designer.

Although there are stories of the fire starting in the basement and blazing through the library, the extent of damage to the library is, as yet, unknown. Until yesterday, Mackintosh’s library was recognised as one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world.

Bad news

Headlines in The Scotsman and The Herald.

Thankfully there are no casualties, with everyone said to have escaped safely. When the fire broke out the building was packed, as final year students prepared for their end-of-year degree show. Evacuated students watched on in despair as the iconic building went up in flames, destroying their own works and many other irreplaceable artworks in the building.

In recent years, Glasgow School of Art has produced many of the UK’s leading contemporary artists as well as three recent Turner Prize winners.

This morning the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, praised by all for their work, said more than 90% of the structure was viable and they had protected up to 70% of the contents. So some good news amidst the dire. And Fiona Hislop, the Scottish culture secretary said everything possible must be done to restore the building. Let’s hope work starts on that as soon as possible.

If you want to find out more about Mackintosh and his work, go to –

Glasgow School of Art http://www.gsa.ac.uk

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society http://www.crmsociety.com

House for an Art Lover http://www.houseforanartlover.co.uk

Glasgow Mackintosh http://glasgowmackintosh.com

The Hunterian, University of Glasgow http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/collections/mackintosh/

The Hill House, The National Trust for Scotland http://www.nts.org.uk/property/the-hill-house/#

The Willow Tea Rooms http://www.willowtearooms.co.uk

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About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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14 Responses to Unique in so many ways

    • Afraid so. It seems unbelievable. I only hope something can be salvaged to rebuild…but it will never be the same Mackintosh building. And apart from all the books and original works of art in the archives, students have had their degree work destroyed. I hope some arrangement can be agreed on awarding these students their degrees without them having to reproduce work. So terribly sad.

  1. Yes. People tend to forget about water damage, but you are absolutely right. The water damage will be extensive. And as fire appliances from over Scotland were pouring water onto the building I would think anything paper, or on canvas (such as paintings) will be totally lost. Hopefully some of the desks and chairs (which I think were oak) might have survived for restoration, but even if they have the time and money required will be considerable.

    I very much hope that people across Scotland get behind this and help however they can to restore what is possible to salvage. But a tragic end to a stunning building designed by a very talented man who himself suffered a rather tragic end.

  2. It has now been confirmed that the wonderful Mackintosh library has been destroyed, but because of fantastic work by firefighters, who formed a human wall to stop the fire spreading, a good part of the building can be saved. Pledges of money have been made for rebuilding and restoration, and because Mackintosh’s work is so well documented, and because he worked mainly in wood and metal, it is hoped that the library can be reconstructed. It won’t be Mackintosh…but it will still be his vision and design.

  3. Walter says:

    A building with so much history is lost in the fire. So sad.

    • Hi Walter,
      Thankfully a large part of it has been saved thanks to the magnificent efforts of the fire service. The amazing library has gone, but as the plans for it are available it is hoped to recreate it using modern craftsmen. So many people around the world have been touched by this that money is pouring in for the restoration and conservation work required.But, as you say, so sad the original has been lost.

  4. Chris says:

    Such a loss. I’d always hoped to visit it one day. Very sad indeed.

  5. There’s still Hill House and The House for an Art Lover, plus the Mackintosh interiors at the University to see. So still worth visiting.

  6. carolee1945 says:

    I have been a fan of Charles Rennie Mackintosh for years and years. I am so sorry this has happened.

  7. Hi Carol, Yes really sad. However it could have been a total disaster but for the skill of the fire fighters. They only left the building yesterday, and a large crowd of cheering, clapping people had gathered to thank them, with a piper adding his thanks in music. I understand the architects association is to award the fire service with a special accolade for their work in saving much of the structure.

  8. This was bad news. Don´t even dare to think of how they feel in the midst of “finals” and the stress to get everything in place. Hope they´ll manage to repair/rebuild what was damaged. On another note, at least great if no people were injured.

  9. Luckily, as I understand it, many students were filming as they went so have a record of their work. Some work has gone for conservation. But yes, very stressful for all those involved. The authorities seem to be working flat out to resolve the situation in some way. Hopefully no student will feel, at the end of the day, that they have been disadvantaged by the tragedy.

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