MACKINTOSH, Charles Rennie
(b. 1868, Glasgow, d. 1928, London)

Exterior view

Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow

In 1895, a limited competition had been announced for the design of a building to house the Glasgow School of Art. As the cost limit would not pay for the entire building, it had been decided to proceed with the construction in two phases. The first stage, beginning in 1896, was the eastern half to just beyond the entrance; this was followed ten years later by the western portion. The Glasgow School of Art, therefore, demonstrates Mackintosh's organic planning whereby within a fixed frame elements are synthesized in response to changing design criteria.

The school's site, a steep bluff falling from north to south, gives a huge increase in height between the entrance elevation on the north and the rear elevation to the south. The difference is not just one of scale because each façade, being the revelation of inner functions, has an individual identity. On the north, with its banks of studios, the rhythmic sequence of metal-framed windows appears at a casual glance to be symmetrical, an illusion fostered by the equal lengths of railings flanking the entrance. Composed of small units indicating lesser volumes within, the elevation is marked out by an oriel window and seemingly off-centre doorway.

The Glasgow School of Art building is one of Mackintosh's most famous architectural creations. There was a national and international outpouring of grief when it was devastated by fire in 2014, and its magnificent library was completely destroyed. However, when it was first unveiled in 1899, the half-finished building was deeply unpopular and appeared to lack symmetry and logic.

The photo, taken before the 2014 fire, shows the north façade of Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.