As I write, the news about the fire at the Glasgow School of Art is still a breaking story, it is unclear how extensive the damage is.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Scottish genius Charles Rennie Mackintosh is one of the many reasons I am interested in architecture. When I first saw photos of one of his extraordinary high-backed chairs, on a poster for an exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert museum years ago, my interest was piqued. In 1999, I went on a tour of Scotland with my family and we visited the Hill House in Helensburgh, the Willow Tea Rooms in Sauciehall Street but were sadly unable to visit the Glasgow School of Art as it had closed, minutes prior to our arrival.
I was already familiar with a lot of his work having bought a copy of the wonderful book, The Mackintosh Style by Elizabeth Wilhide, which among other things explains how Mackintosh understood how closely linked the disciplines of architecture and interior design are, reflected in the unique and strikingly beautiful chairs, beds, clocks, light fittings and countless other features found in his buildings; but to be able to see the results of his astonishing imagination at first hand was an experience I’ll never forget.
Which makes it all the more upsetting to hear the news today about the fire that has broken out in the School of Art. I only wish I’d made the effort to visit the building again after our disappointment all those years ago, and I can only hope that enough of the building remains to enable it to be restored to its former glory.
Mackintosh died aged 60, just as his work was beginning to take new and more interesting directions (as seen at 78 Derngate in Northamptonshire) so we will never know what more he could have been capable of producing. At less than 100 years old, the world should mourn what could be the premature loss of the Glasgow School of Art.