Thanks to the influence of Art Nouveau aficionado Charles Rennie Mackintosh, dancing contrasts of light and dark, supple roses and undulating lines grace many of Glasgow’s buildings. Experience the famed ‘Glasgow Style’ for yourself with our architecture tour of Scotland’s largest city.
Glasgow School Of Art
When in search of Art Nouveau, there’s no better place to start than the Glasgow School of Art. Praised by many as Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the school has his stamp all over it. Theatrical windows of great size line the building, with each smaller pane enabling an opening for natural illumination when the sun hits. The inside is filled with his signature high-backed chairs, dramatic electric lights and splendid plant-form prints. With its strategically placed brickwork and stand-out style, the facade is a work of art. The school offers extensive Mackintosh-related tours which include exploring original models of the architectural plans and the famous Mackintosh Library.
House For An Art Lover
House For An Art Lover is both structurally unique and architecturally mesmerising. The brainchild of Mackintosh and his artist wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (together they made up two of the Glasgow Four), it was designed as a competition entry for a German magazine in 1909. Ironically, Mackintosh was disqualified. Transforming these revolutionary design thoughts into a reality, Graham Roxburgh and a GSA team got to work in 1989 and like clockwork, the job was completed in 1996. Today, it resembles something out of a fairytale with its ethereal facade and artistic flair.
The Willow Tea Rooms
A wonderful re-creation effort, The Willow Tea Rooms — a perfect foodie pit stop during the day’s Art Nouveau tour — offers a glimpse into the debonair mind of Mackintosh. This is all thanks to the original owner Kate Cranston, who commissioned him to work on the furnishings and interior. Indulging in the delicious tea, fresh cakes and traditional Scottish food is made even more desirable when you are seated on the Mackintosh designed towering-backed chairs, looking at the play between light and dark, the hypnotic geometric lines and of course, the rose patterns. Located on Sauchiehall Street, the word ‘Sauchiehall’ comes from the old Scots for ‘Willow Tree’ and ‘Meadow’, which at the time linked in beautifully with Mackintosh’s penchant for incorporating nature into his work.
Scotland Street School Museum
Designed by Mackintosh from 1903 to 1906 as a school, the now Scotland Street School Museum is a magnet for architecture enthusiasts. As his last large scale public Glasgow commission, Scotland Street displays that iconic Glasgow Style with swathes of glass (including leaded glass towers), Art Nouveau carvings embedded into the stonework, a tile-adorned drill hall and geometric lines. Many believe this work of architecture displays hints of early modernism.
Queen’s Cross Church
Queen’s Cross Church deserves extra attention for being the only completed church designed by Mackintosh. Stylistically, it possesses notable modern Gothic flair with flickers of Art Nouveau. Surprising to many, the stained glass is not as embellished as you might think. However, it still contains a definitive Mackintosh style. A trace of Japanese influence is apparent in the interior double beams and pendants.
The work of architect Frank Matcham, the King’s Theatre is worth a look if only to examine the blend of styles woven throughout. Take note of the Bath Street facade with its red Dumfriesshire sandstone, and admire the blending of Art Nouveau and Baroque.
The Hill House
If you are totally dedicated to the pursuit of admiring architecture from the Art Nouveau era — and if time permits — take a 45-minute car journey to The Hill House in Helensburgh, a town on the outskirts of Glasgow. The house and its interior, which features a blend of masculine and feminine features, is a resplendent example of work by Charles Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. Designed for Walter Blackie, a publisher, between 1902 and 1904, this asymmetrical edifice shows remarkable design ingenuity and is open for the public to admire.