The architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is explored here with photographs, drawings and blueprints illustrating his buildings in and around his home city of Glasgow, Scotland.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh's structures are now regarded as part of the international modern movement of the time. His highly individualistic style failed, however, to find a similar level of appreciation in the UK as his Art Nouveau contemporaries enjoyed in continental Europe.
As well as the exteriors of his buildings, Mackintosh also designed many of their interiors and furnishings in his unique decorative fashion.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh portrait created with graphite and coloured pencils by Gerald Blaikie. Exclusive copyright© G.Blaikie 2011

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in 1868 in Parson Street Glasgow, near to the site where nearly 30 years later he was to assist in the design of Martyrs School.


Martyrs School, Glasgow

View of Martyrs School, Glasgow

Drawing of stairwell at Martyrs School, Glasgow Doorway at Martyrs School, Glasgow

Martyrs School is one of the the earliest buildings attributed to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, designed in 1895, around the same time as the Glasgow Herald Building . It was built with red sandstone in the Scots Renaissance style, as were most of the new Glasgow schools of the time, which had to follow the design guidelines of the conservatively minded local School Boards.
There are Japanese influences in the use and shape of the projecting timber eaves at the stairwells, left, and also in some of the internal details. These features are credited to Mackintosh, who had studied Japanese art and architecture at Glasgow School of Art.
The external decoration shows quiet indications of his developing Art Nouveau style, particularly around the doorways, right.



Internal view of roof stucture at stairwell of Martyrs School

Internal view of roof stucture at stairwell of Martyrs School


Mackintosh's perspective drawing of Martyrs School was displayed at the architectural exhibition of the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in March 1896.

Perspective view of Martyrs School by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Perspective view of Martyrs School by Charles Rennie Mackintosh


Charles Rennie Mackintosh is credited with the extension of the Glasgow Herald Building, 1893-1895, which features many of his familiar design preferences in its exterior. He had more freedom to express his individualism here than with the Martyrs School, designed around the same time. The very narrow Mitchell Street was the home of the newspaper from 1870 until 1980 when new publishing practices created a requirement for more modern premises.

Glasgow Herald Building

Glasgow Herald Building

The lower floors of the building were used as production space where the newspapers where dispatched from platforms open to the street. The upper floors, which have less of an industrial feel about them, were used for the editorial and commercial side of the operation.
When Glasgow was awarded the prestigious title of 'UK city of Architecture and Design, 1999', the block was altered and extended to create a modern Architecture and Design centre, 'The Lighthouse'.
As a working newspaper plant, the premises had been altered at various stages throughout the 20th century; as a result there were very few, if any, period furnishings to retain for its restoration.

Part of architect's blueprint - Elevation to Mitchell Lane Part of architect's blueprint - East Elevation

Details of Glasgow Herald towers from architect's blueprints and modern drawing

Drawing of tower of Mackintosh's Glasgow Herald Building


Drawing of Glasgow Herald Building by Charles Rennie Mackintosh Drawing of Glasgow Herald Building by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Drawings of Glasgow Herald Building by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Mackintosh's perspective view of the new Glasgow Herald Buildings (above, right) was displayed at the architectural exhibition of the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in April 1894 and was again shown at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh in April 1895.


Mitchell Street entrance to Glasgow Herald Building

Doorway at Glasgow Herald Building


John Keppie

John Keppie

Charles Rennie Mackintosh worked closely with his firm's senior partner, John Keppie (above), in the specialised and complex design of these 1894-1895 commissions. Contemporary sources credit Keppie as the architect rather than recognising the up-and-coming talent of Rennie Mackintosh, who prepared the exhibition drawings shown above. The architects' plans and blueprints showing the sections and construction details of both Martyrs School and the Glasgow Herald Building are signed 'John Honeyman & Keppie'.

John Honeyman and Keppie, Archts

It is generally accepted that Keppie was comfortable in allowing Mackintosh to carry out most of the decorative design work as well as the presentation drawings for these important commissions which feature typical CRM themes and symbols in the stonework. Keppie would have been more involved in the technical and structural side of the job.

The cutting below from the Glasgow Herald of 20th May 1899, tells us that the works for the newspaper plant were carried out "under the personal supervision of Mr Keppie."

John Honeyman and Keppie, Archts

The alterations to the Glasgow Herald Building following the First World War and the block's 1927 refurbishment are solely credited to John Keppie, having taken place after Charles Rennie Mackintosh had left the firm.

The signature below is from plans from an unrelated later project after Mackintosh had become a partner in 'Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh, Architects' in 1901.

John Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh, Archts


The Medical Hall at Queen Margaret College, University of Glasgow, was designed by John Keppie and Charles Rennie Mackintosh around the same time as the Glasgow Herald Building and Martyrs School. The building clearly shows the hand of Mackintosh, being very different in style to Keppie's typical work in the formal 'Beaux-Arts' style.

The Medical School was originally based at North Park House, near Botanic Gardens, which had become Scotland's first college for women in 1884 and part of Glasgow University in 1892.
A proposal to provide medical courses for female students had been made by several women in 1889 with the financial backing of Mrs Isabella Elder. A formal motion for this provision was adopted at the Annual General Meeting of the college on 28th April 1890. Classes in the study of medicine commenced for 13 students in the winter session of 1890 / 1891.

The funding for the erection of a new Medical Hall in the grounds of North Park House came from the Bellahouston Trust which had been established by sisters Elizabeth and Grace Steven for charitable, religious and educational purposes in Glasgow. The trust had become operative on the death of Elizabeth Steven in 1892.
Keppie and Mackintosh's building was formally opened on 18th November 1895 by Rev. John Caird, Principal of the University of Glasgow.

Elevation of Medical Shool, Queen Margaret College, Glasgow

Medical Hall, Queen Margaret College, University of Glasgow

The Medical Hall was partially demolished and altered during the period when the complex was used by BBC Scotland from 1935 to 2007.
Surviving features include the stairtower which has an attractive open-arched belfry topped with a bell-shaped leaded dome. The balustraded decorative porch has also been preserved.

Drawing of tower of Medical School, Queen Margaret College, Glasgow

Tower and dome of Medical Hall, Queen Margaret Medical College


Mackintosh's perspective view of Queen Margaret Medical College was displayed at the architectural exhibition of the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in 1895.

Perspective view of Queen Margaret Medical College by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Mackintosh's exhibition drawing of Queen Margaret Medical College

In the article shown below, published in the Glasgow Herald of 11th April 1895, the newspaper's Arts Critic commented that "the technique of the pen drawing is skilful", but continued with some negative remarks. Mackintosh's abstract representations of the scenery surrounding the college were not appreciated in their entirety by the writer. It seems that Glasgow wasn't quite ready to comprehend Mackintosh's individualism and his developing style of Art Nouveau design.

Extract from Glasgow Herald, 11th April 1895 re Queen Margaret Medical College


Poster for annual exhibition of the  Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts

Mackintosh designed poster for annual exhibition of the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, c.1895

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's signature on above poster

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's signature on above poster


Queen's Cross Church

Queen's Cross Church

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Queen's Cross Church, situated close to the Partick Thistle football ground in the north of the city, now serves as headquarters of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.
The architecture is difficult to categorise and once again illustrates Mackintosh's unique design skills with beautiful Art Nouveau detailing both outside and inside the church. He was responsible for the spectacular interior decoration and fittings as well as the exterior, illustrated above.
A £1 million refurbishment was completed in early 2007.

Drawing of blue heart window at Queen's Cross Church, Glasgow, by Gerald Blaikie

Blue heart shaped window at Queen's Cross Church, Glasgow

At Queen's Cross, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was very bold in his synthesis of a traditional Gothic window with flamboyant Art Nouveau tracery, rather than the usual imitation of mediaeval patterns.
The window features a blue heart infilled with individually coloured small panes of glass, with subtle changes of hue to bring the image to life.
The drawing, above, uses a bit of artistic license to combine the shading of the tracery as seen from the street with the light from the window, which could only be seen from within the church. You'll have to go inside to view the lighting effects properly.


Drawing of tower of Queen's Cross Church, Glasgow

Tower of Queen's Cross Church, Glasgow

The church's multi-faceted tower gives interesting glimpses of light and shadow on its various surfaces.


Perspective drawing of  Queen's Cross Church by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Perspective drawing of Queen's Cross Church by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Mackintosh's perspective drawing of St Matthew's or Queens Cross Church was displayed at the architectural exhibition of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in 1898.
In the article shown below, published in the Glasgow Herald of 2nd April 1898, the newspaper's Arts Critic is somewhat sceptical regarding the merits of Mackintosh's drawing technique.

Extract from Glasgow Herald, 2nd April 1898 re Queens Cross Church, Glasgow


A contemporary comment on the style of architecture used for the church is contained in the article shown below, published in the Glasgow Herald of 23rd June 1898 after the laying of the foundation stone.

Extract from Glasgow Herald, 23rd June, 1898 re Queens Cross Church, Glasgow


Charles Rennie Mackintosh's only other ecclesiastical work was the Ruchill Free Church Halls which were completed in 1899.
Because of the requirements of the clients, this little building is more conservative than some of his later more modernistic designs. It shows traditional Scottish influences embellished with the individualistic touches which you expect from CRM.
Significantly, the Free Church did not ask Mackintosh to design the adjacent church building.

Ruchill Free Church Halls

Ruchill Free Church Halls


Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow School of Art, North Façade

Glasgow School of Art, situated on a steep hill leading down to Sauchiehall Street, is one of the few Art Nouveau buildings in Glasgow, displaying a style influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh had submitted his designs for the competition in 1896 and was successful in becoming the winning entrant when the result was announced in early 1897. Funding limitatations meant that the building was erected in stages between 1897 and 1909.
Glasgow School of Art still demonstrates a freshness of style and presents a fascinating insight into turn of the century modernism.


The west wing (left) and east wing (right) of the Glasgow School of Art  are situated on a steep hill running down towards Sauchiehall Street, sloping away from the main north-facing façade which fronts Renfrew Street.


Entrance to Glasgow School of Art, drawn by Gerald Blaikie

Drawing of entrance to Glasgow School of Art

Ornate iron railings at Glasgow School of Art

Ornate iron railings at Glasgow School of Art


The plans for the new Art School had been selected from a competition where twelve of the city's most prominent architectural practices had been invited to submit proposals.
This extract from an article published in the Glasgow Herald of 3rd February 1897 gives a brief description of the site and the successful plans for the proposed new building for the Glasgow School of Art.

Extract from Glasgow Herald 3rd February 1897 re Glasgow School of Art


A decade later, when the second phase of construction was under way, the Glasgow Herald of 26th June 1907 published this sketch of the building and gave a complimentary description of both the building and its principal architect.

Sketch from Glasgow Herald 26th June 1907 re Glasgow School of Art

Extract from Glasgow Herald 26th June 1907 re Glasgow School of Art


Sir James FlemingThe opening ceremony of the completed Glasgow School of Art took place on 15th December 1909, performed by Sir James Fleming (left), chairman of the Board of Governors. Sir James had been a pupil of the school a few years after it had been founded in 1840.
At the ceremony Sir John Stirling Maxwell moved a vote of thanks to the architect, Mr Mackintosh, whom he said "had the real faculty of being able to adapt a building for the purpose for which it was really intended". He went on to say that the Glasgow School of Art "was a conspicuous success of that kind".
Mackintosh acknowledged the compliment and on behalf of the contractors presented Sir James Fleming with a jewelled silver casket containing a decorative signed scroll.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's silverware was influenced by the work of the 'Wiener Werkstätte', designers and artisans of the Vienna Secession of which he was an honorary member.

Mackintosh designed silver casket presented to Sir James Fleming

Silver casket presented to Sir James Fleming by Charles Rennie Mackintosh


In Europe Mackintosh was more famous for his decorative art than for his architecture. He was an honourary member of the Vienna Secession and was highly regarded as a designer of furniture and interior decoration.
Mackintosh and 'Glasgow Boy', John Lavery, were included in the list of members of the Vienna Secession from 1902, shown below.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh  in list of members of the Vienna Secession, 1902

German-language publications from around 1900 featured examples of Mackintosh design, such as the wall covering and wardrobe shown below.

Wall hanging designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh Wardrobe designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh


In 1900 Josef Hoffmann, vice-president of the Vienna Secession, visited Britain where he met Charles Rennie Mackintosh and was greatly impressed with his designs which were to have a strong influence on the exponents of Art Nouveau, or 'Jugendstil' as it was known in German.
The 'Glasgow Four', Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret Macdonald, and Herbert and Frances McNair, were invited to contribute to the 8th exhibition of the Vienna Secession in the autumn of 1900, where they created a furnished room to display their work.

Mackintosh Room at the 8th exhibition of the Vienna Secession, 1900

The Mackintosh Room at the 8th exhibition of the Vienna Secession, published in Dekorative Kunst, 1901


Earlier in 1900 Mackintosh's sketches for an 'Artist's Cottage and Studio' had been displayed at the annual exhibition of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. The negative comments in the Glasgow Herald are in stark contrast to the appreciation received in German-language journals for his Exhibition Room in Vienna.

Mackintosh's individualistic design style and contribution to the development of Jugendstil seems to have been beyond the comprehension of local reviewers.

Extract from the <I>Glasgow Herald</I>, 26th April 1900

Extract from the Glasgow Herald review of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, 26th April 1900


South Elevation of 'Artist's Cottage and Studio', Charles Rennie Mackintosh,  1900

South Elevation of 'Artist's Cottage and Studio', 1900

West Elevation of 'Artist's Cottage and Studio', Charles Rennie Mackintosh,  1900

West Elevation of 'Artist's Cottage and Studio', Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1900

A building modelled on Mackintosh's design intentions was completed in Farr, Inverness-shire, in 1992. The architect behind the project was Robert Hamilton Macintyre.


In Glasgow's south side you can visit the House for an Art Lover or 'Haus eines Kunstfreundes' which Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed in 1901 for a competition entry in the German-language magazine Zeitschrift für Innendekoration. It was never built in his lifetime but his vision was realised in the closing years of the century when the house was constructed within Bellahouston Park, opening to the public in 1996.

House for an Art Lover

House for an Art Lover, Bellahouston Park


Cover of Mackintosh's portfolio of competition drawings for House for an Art Lover

Cover of Mackintosh's portfolio of competition drawings for House for an Art Lover


Mackintosh's presentation drawing of House for an Art Lover

Mackintosh's perspective drawing for House for an Art Lover

A selection of drawings from Mackintosh's portfolio can be viewed alongside photographs of the same features at the House for an Art Lover page of this website.


Poster for bazaar at Bath Street U.P. Church by Charles Rennie Mackintosh Poster for Scottish Musical Review by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Examples of poster art by Charles Rennie Mackintosh


Charles Rennie Mackintosh's finest domestic work is situated in Helensburgh, on the south facing slopes of the Firth of Clyde. It was built as a new home for the publisher, Walter Blackie.
The Hill House was built between 1902 and 1904, with further work by Mackintosh in 1912. The interior design and furniture are remarkably well preserved. The extensive gardens are beautifully maintained by the National Trust for Scotland.

Hill House, Helensburgh

Hill House, Helensburgh

Western entrance of Hill House, Helensburgh

Western entrance of Hill House, Helensburgh

Stair tower at rear of Hill House, Helensburgh

Stair tower at rear of Hill House, Helensburgh


Mackintosh's presentation drawing of Hill House, Helensburgh

Mackintosh's presentation drawing of Hill House, displayed 1904 & 1905


Mackintosh's perspective drawing of Hill House, Helensburgh, from the north-west

Mackintosh's perspective drawing of Hill House from the north-west


Mackintosh enjoyed freedom of expression for the interior styling of the Hill House which was radically futuristic, created without the restrictions which could have been imposed by a more conservative client.
The photographs below show the the master bedroom and the entrance hall of the Hill House. They were published in German-language journal, Dekorative Kunst in 1905.

Photograph of master bedroom of Hill House, Helensburgh, 1905


The interior of the Hill House featured repetitive square motifs on walls, carpets, chairs, and furniture, with rose stencils used for wall decoration.
Mackintosh's preference for numerous squares and geometric patterns inspired his fellow artist-architect and member of the Vienna Secession, Josef Hoffmann, who was designing houses, furniture and silverware at the same time. In 1903 Hoffmann formed the 'Wiener Werkstätte', a workshop for creative artists and craftsmen.
Both Mackintosh and Hoffmann were moving away from the flowing curved ladies and the styles and patterns of earlier Art Nouveau in the manner of Gustav Klimt and his admirers. There was a change of emphasis towards simpler forms which can be seen in the two men's later work.



Drawing of façade of Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow, Scotland by Gerald Blaikie

Façade of the Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow

The striking façade of the Willow Tea Rooms on the south side of Sauchiehall Street was added in 1903. The highly original and stylish frontage has retained its freshness more than a century later with a timeless modernity.
Both internally and externally, Mackintosh skillfully managed to combine the elements of architecture and interior design to produce a stunning result.
The subtle effect of the bowed windows (below) creates a 3-dimensional shop front different from any other, either modern or old, in Glasgow's premier shopping street.

Miss Catherine Cranston 

Miss Catherine Cranston (left), a Victorian lady with a remarkable flair for business, was a pioneer of the tea room movement which featured greatly in Glasgow's social life at the turn of the century. The luncheon rooms and tea rooms which carried her name were well known to most Glasgow citizens, demonstrating her refined taste in the fixtures and fittings as well as the decor.


White cabinet for Willow Tea Rooms c.1903

The simple lines of Mackintosh's white cabinet for the Willow Tea Rooms seems to echo the pattern of the building's façade.

 Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow, Scotland


White table and chair by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the Willow Tea Rooms c.1903

White table and chair by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the Willow Tea Rooms c.1903


The Daily Record Printing Works in Renfield Lane has a frontage finished with white and blue glazed bricks with sculpted sandstone finishes to the ground floor and the top storey. It was designed in 1901 and completed in 1904, nearly a decade after the Glasgow Herald Building with which it has some similarities at roof level and at the tower.

Daily Record Building

Drawing of the façade of Daily Record Building

The view shown above could never be seen in reality as the lane is a mere 6 metres wide. No satisfactory viewing point can be reached to get a good look at Charles Rennie Mackintosh's design intentions. The façade's originality was enhanced by the use of full height tree motifs placed between the bays. Mackintosh created these symbols by the simple use of different coloured bricks.
The proposed leaded dome was never added to the tower during construction, probably because it could not have been seen and properly appreciated.

When the Daily Record vacated the building in the late 1930's it was used as a clothing manufacturing workshop by R.W. Forsyth who were Glasgow's premier outfitters at the time. Forsyth's occupied a large shop in nearby Renfield Street.
Scottish Mutual Assurance housed their computer systems in this building from 1984 to 1997, when it became unoccupied. There was a bridge at second floor level, at the rear of the premises, which allowed access to Scottish Mutual's main offices in St Vincent Street.
There were plans in 1999 to create a nightclub within the empty shell but these had to be abandoned due to the costs involved. In March 2006, Glasgow City Council gave permission to create a café bar and live music venue within the building. The Stereo Bar opened in November 2007, occupying the ground floor and basement of the old works.


Tower of Daily Record Building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Stylised Mackintosh rose in tower of Daily Record Building viewed from the east


Sketch of proposed Daily Record Building, c.1901

Sketch of proposed Daily Record Building, c.1901


Perspective view of Daily Record Building, Renfield Lane

Perspective view of Daily Record Building, Renfield Lane


Scotland Street School

Scotland Street School

Glasgow's circular subway system will take you from the city centre to Scotland Street School, which is near to Shields Road station.
The building is of a most imaginative design which would have been ultra-modern for its day. It features twin towers infilled with leaded glass which at night twinkles in the lights of the nearby M8 motorway. Both the stonework and interior decoration show Charles Rennie Mackintosh's genius with a novel style which is entirely his own.
The Reverend Alexander Simpson, Convenor of the School Board of Glasgow, formally opened the school on 5th October 1906. It remained in use until 1979, when it had to close as there were not enough pupils to continue in operation.

When Glasgow was the European capital of Culture in 1990, funding was found to restore the building to the original Rennie Mackintosh designs for both interior and exterior decoration. It has served as Glasgow's Museum of Education since 12th December 1990, and currently features period classrooms, exhibition space and an audio visual theatre.

Detail from infants entrance of Scotland Street School

Detail from infants entrance of Scotland Street School

 

Drawing of western stair tower at Scotland Street School, Glasgow, Scotland

Western stair tower at Scotland Street School

Mackintosh's perspective drawing of Scotland Street School was displayed at the architectural exhibition of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in April 1906.

Perspective view of Scotland Street School by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Perspective view of Scotland Street School by Charles Rennie Mackintosh


Mackintosh designed poster for Glasgow Architectural Association, 1894

Mackintosh designed poster for Glasgow Architectural Association, 1894


Sketch from Glasgow Herald 26th June 1907 re Glasgow School of Art

Mackintosh designed 'Diploma of Honour' certificate for the Glasgow School of Art Club, 1894


There are a number of notable buildings in Glasgow designed by Honeyman, Keppie and Mackintosh in Keppie's preferred 'Beaux-Arts' style where it is uncertain whether there was very much involvement by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. A selection of published elevations is shown below.

Drawing of premises for Pettigrew & Stephens by Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh, 1903 Drawing of premises for Annan & Sons by Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh, 1904

Drawings of premises for Pettigrew & Stephens, 1903 (left) and Annan & Sons, 1904 (right)


Drawing of Parkhead Branch of Glasgow Savings Bank, Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh, 1907

Drawing of Parkhead Branch of Glasgow Savings Bank, Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh, 1907


Drawing of office block, Sauchiehall Street,  Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh, 1907

Drawing of office block, Sauchiehall Street, Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh, 1907


Portrait of Charles Rennie Mackintosh with architectural plans

Portrait of Charles Rennie Mackintosh with architectural plans


Visitors to Glasgow during August and September 2007 were able to visit my "Thomson meets Mackintosh" exhibition at the Mitchell Library (above). The exhibition highlighted the work of the city's two best known architects.

Thomson meets Mackintosh Exhibition

Thomson meets Mackintosh - Mitchell Library, Glasgow, August & September 2007



  Lighthouse

  Scotland Street School

  House for an Art Lover

  Martyrs School

  Obituary to CRM -1928

  CRM - Home page

  Queen's Cross Church

  Glasgow School of Art

  Willow Tea Rooms

  Daily Record Building

  Ruchill Church Hall

  Gaudi and Mackintosh

  


 Gerald Blaikie - Prints and Canvasses


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