Architect Spotlight: Charles Rennie Macintosh
Article By: Francesca Burke
We look at the life and work of one of Scotland’s most famous architects.
Life & Work
It’s St Andrew’s Day this week, so we thought we’re blogging about one of Scotland’s most influential architects: Charles Rennie Macintosh. Born in Glasgow in 1868, Macintosh showed great promise from a relatively early age. He complimented an architectural apprenticeship with evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art, where he won numerous prizes.
Though widely read, Macintosh spent most of his life in Glasgow and was inspired by the city’s heavy shipbuilding and engineering industries, as well as its exposure to the Japanese navy and culture. In particular, he admired the simplicity of Japanese design. Macintosh also included cutting-edge technology in his designs, such as the hydro-pneumatic lift; he was interested in using modern ideas and functional, practical designs that could be applied to the masses of society, not the select few.
Macintosh’s rose motif, from Sofa.com
Famous Macintosh Buildings
Macintosh’s most famed work is probably the Glasgow School of Art. He also designed Queen’s Cross Church, the Willow Tea Rooms (for which he designed not only the interior and exterior of the building but the cutlery, furniture and waitress’s dresses) and Scotland Street School. His motif, the ‘Macintosh rose’, exemplifies his style of contrasting strong right angles with floral motifs.
Macintosh worked closely with his wife, Margaret Macdonald, her sister Frances Macdonald and Frances’ husband Herbert MacNair, at the Glasgow School of Art. They were known as the ‘Glasgow Four’ and were prominent figures in the ‘Glasgow Style’. Macintosh was popular in Europe but relied on a handful of patrons during his career and felt his work did not get enough recognition in Scotland.
Disenchanted with Glasgow, Macintosh and Macdonald moved to London in 1914 with plans to work on artists’ studios, but his arrival coincided with the outbreak of World War I. They moved to Suffolk and then to the South of France, where Macintosh spent most of his time painting watercolours. Illness forced him to return to England, and he died in London aged 60 in 1928.
In the decades since his death, Macintosh’s work has achieved the status he believed he deserved. He is now one of Scotland’s most famous designers and revered as a pioneer of the Art Nouveau movement. You can read about Macintosh’s life and work at the Charles Rennie Macintosh Society.
The Glasgow School of Art, from gsa.ac.uk
Scotland Street School, from Wikipedia