Scotland’s most important architect and designer was Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928). In Nikolaus Pevsner's 1936 book Pioneers of the Modern Movement, he called Mackintosh “the European counterpart of Frank Lloyd Wright” and a forerunner of Le Corbusier. Like Wright, Mackintosh designed not only buildings but also their furnishings and fixtures. A new exhibition, Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style, marks the 150th anniversary of his birth has just opened at Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum. It’s the largest show about the Glasgow Style, one that grew from Mackintosh and his contemporaries at the Glasgow School from the 1890s to 1914, that has ever come to the United States. Many of the 165 objects have never been seen here before. The exhibit draws on the Glasgow Museums collection, with loans from other institutions and private collections. The exhibit’s purpose is to "put Mackintosh in context," said curator Alison Brown of the Glasgow Museums. The Glasgow Style was not just Mackintosh “but a big body of people,” she emphasized, including many other architects and designers. Prominent among them were his friend James MacNair, MacNair’s wife Margaret Macdonald, and Macdonald’s sister, Frances, who was Mackintosh’s wife. Glasgow is “the only city in Britain that created its own version of Art Nouveau,” Brown said. The Glasgow Style was a rejection of historical styles. The bold and distinctive forms were “controversial at the time,” pointed out Brown. She noted that one of the Glasgow Museums’ tour guides often compares the Glasgow Style to the punk rock movement, seeing them as equally radical. The exhibition's designers wanted to give viewers a better sense of the buildings referenced in the show. To that end, Designing the New has several videos of the style's buildings, including exterior details filmed by drones. One of the most detailed videos explores the inside and out of the 1897 Queen’s Cross Church in Glasgow, the only church Mackintosh designed. Another video highlights several buildings completed by Mackintosh’s contemporaries James Salmon Jr. and John Gaff Gillespie, who designed many Glasgow banks. While wall labels are important, visitors often skip them. To make the installation meaningful even for visitors who quickly pass through, Brown says the curators and designers chose and located objects “to make visual connections,” to highlight the relationships between them and the evolution of the Glasgow Style. The show delves into influences on Mackintosh’s early career, including a major cultural exchange between Glasgow and Japan in 1878 that brought Japanese art to the city, and his trip to Italy in 1891. Another influence on the evolution of the Glasgow Style was traditional Celtic culture, which was enjoying a revival during Mackintosh's lifetime. Later in his career, Mackintosh visited Vienna and was influenced by the Vienna Secession. The square motifs often used in Vienna Secession designs began to appear in his furniture, and Machintosh's work also become more streamlined and “more intense,” said Brown. Some of his work prefigures the Art Deco movement. Countless people with no interest in architecture and design have been exposed to Mackintosh—Brown said his work seems to fascinate film and TV designers. Two high-backed chairs in Designing the New have been reproduced many times. A chair he created for the Argyle Street Tea Room (1898) appeared in films such as Blade Runner, The Addams Family, Doctor Who” and Madonna’s video for the song “Express Yourself.” A chair he designed for Hill House (1905) was in the film American Psycho and an episode of the TV show Babylon 5. Designing the New: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style runs at the Walters through January 5, 2020. It will be at the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, June 26 to September 27, 2020; the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, St. Petersburg, Florida, October 29, 2020, to January 24, 2021; and the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, Chicago, February 27 to May 23, 2021. The exhibit is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Glasgow Museums. In Baltimore, the Glasgow exhibit is accompanied by From Mucha to Morris: Books of the Art Nouveau, which features 12 books designed by William Morris, Alphonse Mucha, Aubrey Beardsley, and others, drawn from the Walters’ collection.
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Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has requested a feasibility report to determine if a bridge could be built between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Great Britain’s Channel 4 News reportedly caught wind of Johnson’s request to the Treasury and Department for Transport asking officials to look into building the link over the Irish Sea, an idea he first began seriously touting last year. The idea was initially circulated in early 2018 by architect Alan Dunlop, a well-known Glasgow-based academic-practitioner, historian, and author, when Johnson was first talking about building a 22-mile-long bridge across the English Channel to France. That discussion with French president Emmanuel Macron began as a way to potentially relieve post-Brexit transportation problems. Dunlop studied the possible connection and unveiled an image to go along with his findings at an architecture conference in Scotland last September. Based on his studies, Dunlop believes it’s definitely possible to create a roadway and rail link from the island to Scotland, even though past attempts have never gone anywhere. Dunlop estimates such a project—nicknamed the Celtic Crossing—would cost about $13.2 billion if it spanned the North Irish Sea from the Mull of Kintyre in Campbeltown, Scotland to Torr Head in Northern Ireland, the closest points between the neighboring islands. Right now it takes almost nine hours to get from the northeastern tip in Northern Ireland to the southern tip of the U.K.’s Kintyre Peninsula by car and drivers have to take a ferry. The space between the sites is actually only 12 miles apart. Dunlop has also vocalized the notion that a bridge from Larne, Northern Ireland, to Portpatrick, Scotland, could be an even better location, though it would cost a few billion dollars more and be substantially longer at 21 miles. Johnson has long been known as a supporter of large-scale infrastructure upgrades around the U.K. As mayor of London, he was particularly excited about the now-abandoned scheme designed by Heatherwick Studio to build a Garden Bridge across the Thames river. The proposal quickly became defunct because it proved to be too expensive, and the city’s current Mayor Sadiq Khan cut the program after being elected following Johnson’s exit. A spokesperson told Channel 4 News that it’s no secret that the PM is interested in projects like these that “increase connectivity for people” and “strengthen the union.” At one point during his mayorship, Johnson wanted to build an estuary airport as well. Johnson’s call to conduct a feasibility study for a new Celtic Crossing includes finding out how much it might cost and what risks might be associated with building there—it’s been reported that World War 2 munitions still exist in the Irish Sea. As for Dunlop, he’s fully behind the idea, telling the News Letter that it’s time this project gets a deeper exploration by the U.K. government, but doesn’t want to get too involved with the politics of it all. “There are naysayers who, for whatever reason, don’t like Boris Johnson or they think it would cost too much money,” he admitted to the paper. “The comments are aimed at Boris Johnson and what is happening with Brexit. They don’t have anything to do with the possibility of connecting Scotland and Ireland... I’m trying my very best to stay clear of the politics and look at it from a straightforward architectural and engineering possibility.”
In 1844 the Scottish city of Dundee eagerly anticipated its first royal visit in almost two centuries. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert’s stay was a resounding success and to mark the occasion, the city erected the “Royal Arch” in 1853. It was an instant icon. A monumental structure, it towered over the nearby docks and could be seen all around the city, and indeed the world as Dundee capitalized on its marketing potential. In 1964, however, the Royal Arch was shamefully demolished so the Tay Road Bridge could be built as part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan. Fast forward 54 years and Victoria and Albert have returned, albeit in the form of a museum, and with it, Dundee once again has an icon worthy of global attraction. The V&A Museum of Design, colloquially known as the “V&A Dundee” has been designed by Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma. Bizarrely, yet also somewhat endearingly, train station departure and arrival boards display the architect and his nationality. The city is undeniably proud of its revived, post-Victorian internationalism. “I was inspired by Japanese temple archways,” Kuma told The Architect’s Newspaper. “The archways connect the mountain and nature to the city.” Composed as two inverted pyramids, the V&A Dundee forms an archway of sorts of its own, framing a view on the River Tay and the Tay Road Bridge that spans it. Kuma was also keen to keep the museum decidedly Scottish. It’s ragged, craggy facade is inspired by Scotland’s cliff-edged coastline and comprises 2,429 pre-cast concrete slabs. These lean over the River Tay, mimicking the prow of a ship. One segment of the museum does, in fact, edge out into the river, while porthole-like windows looking over the Tay create the impression of being on a ship when inside. On the Tay’s banks, even at the end of summer, the wind is ferocious. The shallow pools that circle the V&A’s base produce miniature waves, enhancing the sensation of being, as Kuma calls it, “in conversation with nature.” Externally the V&A Dundee is an impressive structure. Walking around the building, it’s staggered facade undulates and unwinds, revealing views onto the building and the River Tay beyond. As a result, the museum has become an instant photo opportunity, with the public (myself included) capturing its curvature to send straight to their Instagram feeds. (The hashtag #V&ADundee already has more than 2,000 posts). This is a digital building for the digital age. “Twenty years ago, we could not have built this building,” said Kuma. “It’s curves and structure are too complex.” Such a distinctive form has its pros and cons inside. The structure works in tension, with a steel truss spanning roof to link up with the outward leaning facades. As a result, the new museum has the largest column-free exhibition space in Scotland, allowing it to host exhibitions that were previously only available to Scots and Dundonians willing to either fly or take a six-hour train to London. Gallery spaces are located on the museum’s upper level. The fittingly nautical Ocean Liners exhibition, sailing up from the V&A in London, inaugurates the museum. The Scottish Design Galleries, meanwhile, host permanent exhibitions, showcasing Scotland’s design prowess. Of the 300 objects on display, one has American roots: a model and sketches of Frank Gehry’s Dundee Maggie’s Centre. The most notable exhibit is Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s “Oak Room” which was designed for the Ingram Street Tearooms in Glasgow. The beautifully crafted ensemble from one of Kuma’s “heroes” has been restored and rightfully put on display, marking its first outing in half a century. Alongside the two galleries on the upper level are studios and an auditorium. These are joined by an open gallery, free to the public and restaurant, both of which look down into a lobby below via a mezzanine with the latter also offering views along the River Tay. It’s here, though, that the museum’s shape causes problems. An outdoor terrace for the restaurant feels like an afterthought. Up here it’s even windier than at ground level and the tight space is encased by the concrete cladding system meaning there isn’t even a view worth braving the elements for. A similar story continues downstairs in the lobby, too. Oak veneered panels emulate the external facade and as a result are too steep to be sat on and truly useful. An auditorium may already be upstairs, but these panels could easily become bleachers, creating an informal auditorium in the process. This would even dovetail with Kuma’s notion of the museum’s lobby supposedly being a “living room for the city.” “This is not a space just for art lovers,” the architect said, but in reality, the lobby is just a cafe area and museum shop. The V&A Dundee has come at a price: $105 million, twice the initial budget. It’s also four years late. Dundonian’s, however, don’t seem to mind. “I’m just pleased that that kind of money is being spent of Dundee!” said one local, though on it’s opening day, a small protest by anti-poverty campaigners did take place. For all the efforts gone into making the museum happen, considerably less has gone into improving the surrounding area. An awful train station-hotel greets those visiting by rail and another, equally drab hotel is currently going up opposite the V&A. This is all part of a $1.3-billion waterfront masterplan which rehashes the work of planners 60 years ago. It’s just as well Kuma’s museum makes all that comes before instantly forgettable. The V&A Dundee is the icon Dundee has craved, turning the city into a genuine Scottish destination. https://vimeo.com/284710327
For the second time in four years, Glasgow School of Art in Scotland has been devastated by fire. A huge blaze broke out at the school Friday night that has been described by local officials and onlookers as “heartbreaking,” “devastating,” and “immense.” Images and video relayed via social media Friday night showed a towering inferno lighting up the Glasgow skyline, with embers and flaming debris raining down across the city as a thick plume of smoke filled the night sky. An adjacent nightclub also caught fire and was extensively damaged by the blaze. Ultimately, over 120 firefighters were deployed to the scene amid fears that the fire would spread to further structures. There were reports that responders were unable to enter the school to fight the blaze from within for fear of structural collapse as the fire reached temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees Celsius, or over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures nearly hot enough to melt steel. The building’s structural stone columns were extensively damaged in the previous fire in efforts to save the building. https://twitter.com/jamiemcfadyen87/status/1007821750338506757?s=21 By morning, the Grade-A listed structure could be seen gutted against the morning sun, with stone pillars and destroyed timber framing among the only remaining elements of the iconic, pioneering Arts and Crafts-style structure designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1896. Alan Dunlop, professor of architecture at te Glasgow School told The Guardian, “The building does look as though from the inside it’s been totally gutted. All that seems to remain is the stone walls.” Neil Baxter, a Scottish architectural historian, made a statement to the press Saturday morning saying, “For the city of Glasgow, this is a tragedy. There is no other building in the city as important as this. It is of importance to the world.” Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, called the fire “heartbreaking” in a statement adding that the latest fire had been “much, much worse than the one that took hold of the Mackintosh building four years ago – so the damage is severe and extensive.” According to The Guardian, the 2014 blaze was caused when flammable gases from a foam canister used for a student project were accidentally ignited and eventually spread throughout the structure through old ventilation ducts. Work on the restoration of elements destroyed by the fire—which included the school’s fabled library—was well under way as the latest blaze broke out. It appears those efforts have been in vain and that the renovated sections have suffered a total loss. Reports indicate that a new sprinkler and fire containment system designed to prevent further fires was in the process of being installed as the restoration pushed toward a late 2018 completion. AN will continue to provide updates on the situation in Glasgow as more information becomes available.
In 2014, a fire sparked by a student project ripped through the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building, ascending through the structure’s vertical shafts and voids, to devastate significant portions of the interior. Design team lead for the restoration of the Mackintosh Building is the Glasgow-based firm Page\Park Architects, who are at the forefront of architectural conservation in the United Kingdom. Completed in 1909, the Glasgow School of Art was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in his distinctive Arts and Crafts style, adorned with idiosyncratic detailing and complex arrangements of materials. The Mackintosh Building was built in two phases; the eastern section was opened in 1899 while the western section was completed a decade later. According to Liz Davidson, the GSA Senior Project Manager of the Mackintosh Building Restoration, “Just over 50 percent of the structure remained relatively unscathed during the blaze, 30 percent was subject to damage stemming from the dual effects of intense heat and billowing smoke, and nearly 20 percent was utterly destroyed.” The latter category largely impacted the top floors of the building, which are home to the library, a gallery, and the upper loggia. The process of restoration requires the study and evaluation of archival records and surviving materials as well as the sourcing of original materials. It also requires knowledge of traditional craftsmanship, a process Iain King, Depute of Conservation at Page\Park Architects, describes as “bringing craft back into the building.” This effectively reintroduces a forgotten level of craftsmanship to Scotland’s building industry. The restoration process is also a transcontinental enterprise. The restoration of Studio 58, a Japanese-inspired gallery located on the top floor of the Glasgow School of Art, required century-old American yellow pine for its columns. Although yellow pine can be sourced across Europe and the United States, the century-old pine is superior in its structural strength and finish, and thus needed to be sourced from a pre-existing stockpile or building. In a twist of fate, the Massachusetts Cotton Mills Complex of Lowell, Massachusetts, which was partially demolished in 2016, had American yellow pine of the size and quality required. Eight 23-foot-long beams made the journey to Scotland in a shipping container and were craned above the roof of the structure. The library of the Mackintosh Building was perhaps the culmination of the architect’s design ethos. Built of rich tulipwood, the room rose the full height of the projecting oriels punctuating the Western elevation, divided into an upper and lower gallery. The ongoing replication of the library involved the construction of a full-sized library prototype replete with tulipwood sourced from the United States, and decorated with Mackintosh’s distinctive pendants and scallops. Through the analysis of the library’s charred remnants, the design team was able to unlock information regarding the joinery of the woodwork, allowing for the replication of assembly, nailing and detailing. The restoration of the Mackintosh building is expected to finish in spring 2019, with students returning back to the building in the autumn. For over a century, the building shaped and was shaped by generations of students. With this reciprocal relationship in mind, Iain King acknowledged that this authenticity cannot be restored to the building, but it can be reconstructed along the lines of the original design, "allowing future students to have their own memory of the building.”
Page/Park Architects selected to rebuild Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s legendary fire-destroyed art nouveau Glasgow library
Glasgow, Scotland–based architecture practice Page/Park wowed judges in an international competition for the restoration of the Glasgow School of Art, whose legendary art nouveau library was consumed by a fire in May last year. While all 259 rooms were affected by the fire, with the bulk of the damage attributed to smoke, the flames demolished Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s library beyond recognition. Page/Park’s Piece by Piece submission comprised a room-by-room dissection of the building, a culmination of closely studying photographs and literature “from various periods and from every possible angle” to visually reassemble the library in its heyday. From there, 21st-century amenities can be integrated such as replacements for the vintage lighting and cabling—first installed when the building was completed in 1909. “The first job is to understand how it was originally constructed and secondly to understand the how it was changed over the last century, and on the basis of that if we know how it’s made we can make the decision how it’s going to be renewed if necessary or repaired for the most part,” David Page, head of architecture at Page/Parks, told The Guardian. Having worked on a number of Mackintosh-conceived projects, including converting the former Glasgow Herald offices into the Lighthouse Centre for Design and Architecture, the firm showed superlative insight into the Scottish architect’s oeuvre. In crafting its proposal, Page/Parks zeroed in on a single bay and post of the balcony—two elements repeated throughout the building—to recreate the library within the remains of its still-standing masonry shell. “Our knowledge has been supplemented by what was revealed by the fire—elements of the construction that were not possible to examine in full when the Library was intact,” the firm writes in Piece by Piece. Profiled rails, balcony pendants and scalloped balusters painted red, white, blue and green inform the interior’s art nouveau signature, but the proposal does not elaborate on whether these archaic fixtures will stay or go. Work is slated to commence in April next year, with the renovation being expected to conclude in 2018.
Kengo Kuma’s Victoria & Albert Museum of Design in Dundee, Scotland, hasn’t even broken ground yet, but it has already racked up a pretty substantial bill. In fact, the museum project is expected to cost roughly $80 million, a whopping $35 million more than initially projected. Kuma won the commission back in 2012 and has supposedly already tweaked the design to cut down costs. "The V&A Museum of Design Dundee is a very complex project, we have done extensive cost checking during the design process, and we have market-tested the major building packages with various contractors," Kuma’s firm told Building magazine. "Due to several factors, including inflation and current market conditions, the tender returned surprisingly high and this was unexpected even to the main contractors due to the complex nature of the project." The project was recently reviewed by the city after the price dramatically increased, but after a meeting this month, city councillors have approved the new budget and are working on a plan to raise additional funds. If all goes well and the City of Dundee can swing the hefty costs with the help of private funding, the V&A will be open by 2018.
The Glasgow School of Art—considered Charles Rennie Mackintosh's masterwork—has caught fire, and early reports indicate that a large section of the building has been destroyed. Considered a "total work of art," Mackintosh fused arts and crafts elements with a robust, almost industrial structure, which, in many ways, presaged the development of modernism. Steven Holl Architects recently completed an addition to the building, which AN just reviewed. Holl and design partner Chris McVoy released the following statements. https://twitter.com/guardian/status/469857282088796160 "It is unbelievably tragic for architecture and the history of architecture. This is an unimaginably sad and deeply spiritual loss. We are thankful that all the students are safe. The loss to their future education is devastating," Holl wrote. McVoy added: "One of the most spiritual corners of this world has been devastated. We are so sorry especially for all the community of the School. Heartfelt wishes for resilience." According to the Guardian, firefighters are assessing the damage. Apparently the entire West Wing of the building has been lost. The GSA's Board Chair Muriel Gray released the following statement:
Today is a really black one for the GSA, but I cannot thank the fire brigade enough for the speed with which they came and their commitment to contain and extinguish the fire. Fortunately there have been no fatalities or injuries. I am so proud of the staff and students and how everyone has pulled together. We are thankful to all the Glaswegians who turned up to comfort students and to friends from across the world for their messages of support.