The Best Places to see Charles Rennie Mackintosh Design

Charles Rennie Mackintosh is an icon of 20th Century Design, not to mention being one of Glasgow’s favourite sons.

Although considered to be a master of Art Nouveau, Mackintosh uniquely brought together Scot’s vernacular design and Japanese influences. Beautiful floral motifs and intricate ironwork are repeated throughout his designs, along with an inspired use of light and innovation in the practical use of space. Glasgow is home to the finest examples of his craft.

The Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow School of Art before the fires

This iconic building, widely considered as Mackintosh’s masterpiece, was devastated by a fire in May 2014 and then another in June 2018. Now largely destroyed, the loss to Glasgow and Mackintosh admirers is immeasurable. Prior to the fires, this beautiful venue was the centre of the Glasgow School of Art campus, housing the fine art students. Currently, the school is closed to visitors and the future is uncertain.

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Mackintosh at The Willow

Mackintosh at The Willow

Following extensive renovations, the only surviving tea rooms designed by Mackintosh for local entrepreneur Mrs Kate Cranston are now open to the public. Designed in 1903, the Room de Luxe is a highlight of the original Willow Tea Rooms, with the original stained glass doors in place as well as the leaded mirror frieze. Mackintosh paid as much attention to the detail as he did to the grand interior and exteriors. Cutlery and waitress uniforms were all touched by his mastery along with the furniture. Run as a social enterprise, these tea rooms are not to be confused with the Mackintosh-themed Willow Tea Rooms which operate elsewhere in the city.

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Queen’s Cross Church

Queen’s Cross Church

Home to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, this is the only church in the world ever built from designs by Mackintosh. Commissioned in 1896 but the Free Church, the use of light and stained glass in the church is exceptional, along with characteristic stonework and wood carving. An excellent library is on-site, along with a gift shop.

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The Hill House

One of Mackintosh’s most significant commissions was to design this Helensburgh mansion house and garden for Walter Blackie, a prominent business man at the time. In Mackintosh style, he extended the design process to include all the interior fittings and decoration. Currently in the process of being restored, the house is still open to the public although the interior is ‘dissolving like an aspirin in a glass of water’ according to the National Trust for Scotland! As part of the restoration, a gigantic steel structure affectionally called the Hill House Box, surrounds the whole house, with a walkway that takes visitors over the roof. This gives a fascinating view of the house, revealing tiny hidden windows and beautiful design features. Regular trains run from Glasgow to Helensburgh.

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The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

Situated in the centre of Glasgow, the former Glasgow Herald Building is now the Centre for Design and Architecture. Wonderful rooftop views of the city are reached by the spiral staircase of Mackintosh Tower and there are plenty of original artefacts and information models in the venue.

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Scotland Street School Museum

Scotland Street School Museum

This school, which functioned in this way until 1979, was Mackintosh’s last major commission. Leaded glass towers, beautiful tiled hallways, fireplaces and intricate stonework are to be found here. Wander the classrooms and enjoy the natural play of light and shade. A database of original photographs is a wonderful record of real life at the school.

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Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Images courtesy of Glasgow Life, The Mackintosh Church, The Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh at The Willow and The Lighthouse

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