A taste of Mackintosh

  • Mackintosh rose detail

It goes without saying that a trip to Glasgow will involve some kind of bump up against Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Whether it be a climb to the top of The Lighthouse or a trip further afield to see House for an Art Lover, inevitably you’ll cross paths with the man at some point. And that’s a good thing. So why not start off with an easy overview of him at one of his most influential projects, the Glasgow School of Art.

After a devastating fire in May 2014, the Mackintosh designed GSA was severely damaged, especially the library. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the archives were safe. The building restoration continues on, with a completion date of 2018-19.Glasgow School of Art restoration

However, even as work progresses on the Mackintosh building, you can still take a tour with one of the GSA’s students and discover a great deal about the man and his work. Of course, you don’t enter the damaged structure itself, but are taken through the new Reid Building across the street, designed by Steven Holl Architects. It’s certainly not art nouveau, but it works as a bright, modern partner with the landmark across the way.

Glasgow School of Art Reid Building Staircase

Below, one of the “Driven Voids of Light,” the name Steven Holl has given to the circular portholes bringing light into the building.

Glasgow School of Art Reid Building Skylight

(Oh and finally, a proper use of the Mackintosh typeface.)

Glasgow School of Art Tour sign

So, about the tour — what do you get to see? You start in the Mackintosh Visitor Centre which has wall exhibits and a model of the Mackintosh building in the center. The model pictured below is a newer library model located upstairs. Do look inside it. The craftsmanship is incredible.


It’s a school so there are students about, ignoring the group of tourists.

Study at the Glasgow School of Art

A large portion of the tour is held in the small Mackintosh Furniture Gallery where his trademark decorative rose motif and lattice work are in evidence.

Mackintosh Furniture Gallery

Art is the Flower – Life is the Green Leaf. - Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Mackintosh cabinet metalwork

He collaborated closely with his wife Margaret Macdonald and one of her paintings hangs in the gallery. She was also a skilled metalworker and may have contributed the panels above.


Mackintosh did not work with expensive materials, but beauty is found in the wear of them.


It will be exciting when the restoration is complete and visitors are able to go into Mackintosh’s masterpiece again. In fact, because of the fire, new discoveries concerning his designs have been uncovered, which will be implemented.  In the meantime, this informative 45 minutes is a tasty slice of the man and his work.

That’s nice. Sooo, should I go? If you have a mild interest in architecture, Art Nouveau, the Arts & Crafts movement, or furniture design, yes. The guides are enthusiastic, professional and ready for questions. And your tour fee goes toward the restoration of the Mackintosh building.

I’m smitten. Tell me more. Once the restoration is complete, the interior wood will likely look too “light” as the patina from years of use — and smoking — will not have developed. Just needs time to dirty itself.

Location The Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfrew Street, Glasgow.

Cost  Roughly about $9 with today’s exchange rate. Book ahead as they do sell out. I had to settle for an earlier time than I actually wanted.

Tip In case you wanted to visit Mackintosh’s Willow Tearooms, they are also undergoing restoration, due to reopen in 2018.

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