HYDERABAD: Displaying a disarming blend of sophistication and earthiness, Glasgow has regenerated and evolved over the last couple of decades: its Victorian architectural legacy and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s sublime works dot the town, even as the River Clyde acts as a symbol of the city’s renaissance. Glasgow, as Scotland’s creative capital, celebrates Mackintosh’s 150th anniversary this year while his chic creations steal the show. During a tour of Mackintosh’s Glasgow, I gathered a few interesting facts. Along with the Industrial Revolution, Asian style and emerging modernist ideas also influenced Mackintosh’s designs.
Glasgow’s link with Japan facilitated artists like Mackintosh who were inspired by its restraint and economy of means rather than ostentatious accumulation; its simple forms and natural materials rather than elaboration and artifice; the use of texture and light and shadow rather than pattern and ornament. In the old western style, furniture was seen as an ornament that displayed the wealth of its owner and the value of the piece was established according to the length of time spent creating it.
Focusing on the quality of the space, which was meant to evoke a calming and organic feeling to the interior, discarding heavy ornamentation and inherited styles, Mackintosh became known as the ‘pioneer’ of the Modernist movement. He built around the needs of people: looking at people not as masses, but as individuals who needed not a machine for living in but a work of art. This proud son of Glasgow took his inspiration from his Scottish upbringing and blended them with the flourish of Art Nouveau and the simplicity of Japanese forms.
Queen’s Cross Church
Built between 1897 and 1899, it is the only church in the world designed by Mackintosh and is one of Glasgow’s hidden architectural gems. The simplicity of the design is striking. The windows are Gothic in character, yet are infused with the Mackintosh spirit, and the floral motifs he affected can be easily recognised, particularly on the tracery of the large western window above the chancel. The great vaulted roof is dominated by striking steel tie beams with robust exposed rivets and plates. The coloured glass used minimally was quite striking.
The Mackintosh House
The Hunterian (in the University of Glasgow) is home to one of Scotland’s finest collections. It includes ‘The Mackintosh House’: the reassembled principal interiors of the Glasgow home of Mackintosh & Margaret Macdonald (1906-1914). It was like entering into the hallowed precincts of the artist couple: the beautiful rooms are outstanding works of art in their own right and provide rare insight into the Mackintoshes’ private home life. Decorated in his distinctive style, remarkable for the disciplined austerity of the furnishings and decoration, the interiors display Mackintoshes’ own furniture.
It was originally a Victorian house, redesigned and renovated for his wife. The entrance was optically widened for a better effect by placing wooden panels/ door frames along the wall and cutting the too high lintel at a mid level with a glass window/ ventilator. I liked the vanity mirror reflecting the light from the opportunity window, brightening up the place. The electrical lights designed by his wife and an interesting umbrella stand in wrought iron caught my eye.
Mackintosh himself designed some very pretty electric lights, while master craftsmen slogged over the same to bring out lovely, quaint lampshades with a bit of stained glass in each, the colours standing out prominently. The pinks, the blood reds and the purples sparkled in the glass, everything handmade. The trellis pattern in the dining room impressed me and the runner made by his wife. The chimney rest, mantlepiece, the wooden panels around the dining hall, the light coloured carpets (upstairs), white curtains, cabinets designed in 1902 (painted on wood, look like glass), everything spells Mackintosh.
The bedrooms were originally two, merged into one, specially designed for his beloved Margaret. It was the first 4-post bed Mackintosh ever designed, matched with the white wardrobes: unpainted oak from inside, panelled out. In the tiny guest bedroom, the beds with a three-dimensional effect were made to look bigger and wider; I felt the pinstriped upholstery on the beds looked a bit weird. Though practical, the very small space of 4 metres by 4 certainly did not seem warm to the guests. The library has some book covers designed by him; an erotic painting “white rose red rose” calls for attention; the study table has silver panels designed by Margaret.
The highlight of Mackintosh designs is the high backed and the short chairs with squares: you cannot but fall in love with them. One particular chair post starts with a circle and interestingly ends up in a rectangle! There was a sedan chair with curtains on both sides, wonder why and for whom it was designed and who sat in it, to be carried around Glasgow!!
I simply and flatly fell in love with the purple high backed chairs painted silver on oak...they looked so very pretty, I secretly planned to steal them, my admiration for the chairs did not deter me from committing this serious crime and be imprisoned in a Mackintosh chair forever!!
The silver-purple chairs...Oh! They’re too pretty to be forgotten!
(The author is a documentary filmmaker and travel writer; she blogs at vijayaprataptravelandbeyond.com)