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Friday, 03 February 2012

Mad For Mackintosh - Page 3

Written by John Thomson
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Pedestrian Mall

The Hunterian Gallery is one of twelve locations available on the Mackintosh Trail Ticket, an all-inclusive fare that covers admission and transport to all twelve sites via bus or subway. As I soon found out, Mackintosh is Glasgow’s favorite son and the city fathers aren’t shy about promoting him. He’s been immortalized, idolized and commercialized. You’ll never run out of Mackintosh memorabilia when touring Glasgow. The souvenir shops outnumber the architectural sites two to one.

Yet it wasn’t always that way. A few years after his death in 1928 Mackintosh was essentially forgotten and his Glasgow buildings were either being demolished or falling into disrepair. So why is he so famous today?

I found the answer at The Lighthouse, a design incubator and museum at 11 Mitchell Lane just off Buchanan Street in central Glasgow. Housed in a former newspaper building designed by Honeyman and Keppie, Mackintosh’s employers at the time, The Lighthouse is filled with noteworthy toys, textiles and furnishings created by Britain’s past and current top designers. Its most prominent feature is a brick tower that Mackintosh added in 1895. A vigorous romp up the circular staircase leads to a rooftop view of the city but it’s on the third floor that the Mackintosh story comes to life. Original drawings, photographs and three dimensional models paint a picture of the man and his times.

I learned that young Mackintosh was a rising star when he completed the Glasgow School of Art in 1909. His ideas were well-received and he was a bit of a celebrity. But when the young Scot struck out on his own, tastes changed and his business faltered. He and his wife Margaret retreated to London to concentrate on textile design. And when that didn’t pan out the couple eventually retired to southern France where Mackintosh renounced architecture entirely and spent the rest of his life painting watercolors.

For awhile it looked like history would turn its back on the unlucky Scot but in 1973 a non-profit society was created to maintain his buildings and recognize his accomplishments. The canonization of Mackintosh began. And that’s okay because now I know why.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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