Glasgow School of Art: A Friend in Need
Whilst the fire was still raging in Glasgow School of Art my friend Robert Alan Jamieson posted this comment on Facebook: ‘feels more like the loss of a well-loved personality than a building on fire.’ An apposite comment, and worth taking further for this building is not just a personality but a friend. It is strange to consider it that way, but absolutely true.
Whatever the damage, Mackintosh’s building will be again the friend not just of the artists who have worked and studied there, but the friend of anyone who cares to give it a second glance.
And who does not give it a second glance? It is one of the most beautifully designed buildings in the world. It was built at a time when Glasgow and its hinterland led the world in the aesthetics of making things. Mackintosh was born into the age of the Clyde-built tea clipper. Those ships – like Ariel from Greenock or Cutty Sark from Dumbarton – have been seen as a peak of maritime beauty ever since.
Glasgow was then and is today a powerhouse of visual thinking. And symbolizing it all: Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art.
In his pioneering book, Cities in Evolution, published in 1915, Patrick Geddes refers to the fact that ‘Mackintosh’ had become a descriptive term in architecture in Europe. Mackintosh was in an international leadership role for the modern movement. He conducted a tour of the Glasgow School of Art for Geddes during the International Exhibition in Glasgow in 1901. Perhaps it was around this time that Geddes wrote, in an undated manuscript, that
‘the real artist is he who, like Mackintosh in the Art College of Glasgow (one of the most important buildings in Europe) gets his effects within the sternest acceptances of modern conditions. For here never was concrete more concrete, steel more steely, and so on.’
Within that honesty of materials Mackintosh conjured spaces in which to think and to make, and we have been thinking and making in them ever since. And now our thinking and making must help to bring that great personality and friend, Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art, back to life.