In the year that fire ravaged Mackintosh’s masterful Glasgow School of Art, this first major retrospective of his architecture is timely and enlightening
Charles Rennie Mackintosh is such a famous figure that it is surprising to learn that until the Hunterian Art Gallery-led project Mackintosh Architecture, there was no authoritative and comprehensive account of his work as an architect.
The outcome of this five-year project is a freely-accessible, online digital catalogue and an exhibition, showing at the Hunterian before moving to the RIBA in London in February.
This catalogue encompasses hundreds of drawings and documents to give a far fuller picture of Mackintosh’s oeuvre beyond best known buildings such as the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and Hill House, taking in his early work at John Honeyman & Keppie (later Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh).
‘It’s extremely rewarding seeing him not as an isolated genius but as a member of a busy practice in the city of Glasgow,’ says Pamela Robertson, senior curator and Professor of Mackintosh Studies at the Hunterian. ‘By going through in a very careful way, we have a better understanding of Mackintosh the young architect in practice rather than the stellar designer of later,’ she says.
Research has identified his contribution to projects at the practice, as well as exploring what she terms the ‘lively hinterland’ of more than 1000 contractors, clients and trades people associated with his work in Glasgow at the time to give a snapshot of life and commerce of the time.
The exhibition shows more than 80 drawings as well as films, models and other archival material, with the emphasis on his domestic designs.
Roberston hopes the catalogue will be a valuable resource both for anyone interested in exploring Mackintosh’s work, and also those involved in the care of his buildings. It has already proved useful for those involved in the conservation of Hill House and redecoration at the Glasgow Art Club, and no doubt the archive will be invaluable when the restoration of the GSA gets under way next year after the recent terrible fire.
The catalogue, which contains 358 architectural projects by Mackintosh spanning 1888-1920, is at www.mackintosh-architecture.gla.ac.uk.
Mackintosh Architecture, University of Glasgow, 82 Hillhead Street, Glasgow
Until 4 January 2015, Hunterian Art Gallery, and from 18 February- 23 May, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London