Welcome to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.

Mackintosh: Heritage Under Threat

Mackintosh’s Glasgow and Beyond: Building the Case for Preservation

Mackintosh Queen’s Cross:  6 & 7 June 2024

The symposium is time critical in drawing awareness to the plight of our beautiful Heritage.


Tickets for the Symposium are available from Eventbrite and cost £45 per day or £70 for both days (includes lunch & refreshments)

Virtual tickets for the Symposium cost £15 per day


The Mackintosh Society has done much in its 50 years of existence to champion, preserve and safeguard the work and heritage of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Sadly, since the last symposium in 2012 we have seen an apparently growing disregard for our built heritage, through neglect, bad planning and lack of action and investment by councils and government. It is therefore crucial not to repeat the destructive mistakes of the past and take bold action to reverse this decline.

Glasgow’s heritage is a unique selling point for the city and the importance cannot be overstated; it plays a powerful role in shaping distinctive, vibrant, prosperous places and contributes substantially to health, education and civic pride. It also sustains neighbourhoods as attractive places in which people  live, work and play.

Although Glasgow’s architectural landscape may be unique in Scotland, its challenges are not. Across the UK, policy makers are attempting to strike a balance between preservation of historic buildings and the housing crisis that has engulfed major cities. It is a tension that is unavoidable, and we must ensure that it does not lead to unchecked erosion of our past.

DAY ONE: Registration at 9:15 - 9:45 with coffee and pastries  

Day One will cover the current restoration work at Scotland Street School and The Hill House, the uncertain future of the Lighthouse and Martyrs’ School, plus the ongoing work to rebuild the Mackintosh Building at the GSA. We will also cover major issues and challenges facing the wider heritage of the city.

Chair: Peter Ranson

Speakers on Day One include:

Restoring, Managing and Repurposing Queen’s Cross Church

Stuart Robertson

Director, CRM Society

A historic overview of restoring, managing and reinventing a repurposed church of significant architectural merit.

By the 1970s as the population declined Queen’s Cross could not continue as a viable church and in 1976 the congregation merged with that of nearby Ruchill Church. The following year the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society stepped in to save the building and negotiated a 21-year lease from the Church of Scotland. In 1999 the Society was able to purchase Queen’s Cross as a result of a generous donation from Dr Thomas Howarth.

‘Mackintosh Architecture: Context, Making and Meaning’ – the project and its legacy
Joseph Sharples
Curator of Mackintosh Collections
& Applied Art: The Hunterian

The University of Glasgow’s Mackintosh Architecture project was completed in July 2014 with the launch of the website www.mackintosh-architecture.gla.ac.uk.

The research project, which ran from 2010 to 2014, was led by The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It aimed to provide the first authoritative survey of the architectural work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

10:55-11:15 Coffee Break

Mackintosh Buildings Survey Update
Brian Park: Retired Conservation Architect
John Sanders: Partner at Simpson & Brown Architects

In 2016 the Society completed a major survey of the surviving Mackintosh built heritage. This was a landmark achievement and the first comprehensive condition survey of the Mackintosh built heritage and an important milestone in our understanding and preservation of Mackintosh’s legacy.

The central aim of the Survey was to determine the current condition of a range of prioritised Mackintosh buildings and related works, including interiors and gravestones, within public and private ownership. The survey work was undertaken by Simpson & Brown Architects and Page\Park Architects and was led by the Society’s director Stuart Robertson and board member Pamela Robertson, former Professor of Mackintosh Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Rescuing Mackintosh at the Willow
Stewart Brown:
Founding Partner of Simpson & Brown, Architects, now retired and Trustee of The Willow Tea Rooms Trust for 8 years.

Key steps in rescuing a building under threat and redeveloping it through restoration to become a commercial (and social and educational) enterprise.

Followed by Discussion Panel

12:45-13:45 Lunch in the Hall

Scotland Street School: Reuse and Repair
Mandy Fallens BSc(Hons), BArch, RIBA
Senior Architect at Glasgow City Council

The Scotland Street School project is currently on site with a first phase of external fabric repair works, including roof repairs and lead work. The building was in use solely a museum since 1990, but has been closed to the public since 2020. Part of the project brief is the reintroduction of an education function in the form of an early years facility for 3-5 year olds on the ground floor. We will discuss the challenges of incorporating an early years facility into the 1906 Category A Listed Building to meet the current curriculum standards, and provide an overview of the ongoing fabric repair works, building investigations and surveys.

The Hill House: Not judging a Book by just its Cover
Liz Davidson:
Project Director: The Hill House

At the Hill House – Mackintosh and Macdonald fused architecture and artistry to create a happy family home for the Blackie family.  With little alteration that home now welcomes thousands of visitors each year.  But the technical and fabric problems of the construction emerged relatively shortly after its completion in 1904.  In 2019 the Box was erected to cover and allow time for its considered repair. This presentation will assess this strategy and the timeline for a major conservation project to start – and complete - in time for the anniversary year in 2028.

Bringing Back the “Mack”
Eleanor Magennis:
Director of Estates and Infrastructure at The Glasgow School of Art overseeing new Digital and Estates Strategies including the faithful reinstatement of the Mackintosh building.

An insight into the extensive work that has taken place at the Mackintosh Building in preparation for a faithful reconstruction of this masterpiece.

15:40-16:00 Tea Break

Thomson’s lost Buildings and those at Risk
Scott Abercrombie & Fiona Sinclair:
The Alexander Thomson Society

In 1890 Charles Rennie Mackintosh became the second recipient of the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship, a triennial award made by the Glasgow Institute of Architects as a memorial to “Greek” Thomson, whose death in 1875 had deeply affected his friends and colleagues.  The award continues to be made in his honour, and in 1991 the importance of Thomson was further underlined by the formation of the Alexander Thomson Society, which exists to promote and safeguard his works.  Fiona Sinclair and Scott Abercrombie, both Director Trustees of the society, will talk about the loss of many major buildings by this exceptional architect (including one close to Mackintosh’s Queen's Cross Church); the successful rescue of others; and the ongoing threat to some of those that still exist.

The civic museum collection as a repository of rescued heritage 
Alison Brown:
Curator, European Decorative Art and Design from 1800 to present, Glasgow Museums and Collections, Glasgow Life

Over the last 53 years Glasgow Museums has amassed a significant holding of Mackintosh and Glasgow Style interiors and interior parts. Each is an instance of the city stepping in to save important heritage in danger of being lost. This paper presents an overview of the acquisitions, research and display undertaken to date, and asks: when there are no such things as elastic walls – for display, for storage – what are the most important considerations for our 21st Century civic museum collections when called to rescue Glasgow’s material heritage?

Followed by Questions and Discussion Panel



DAY TWO: Registration opens at 9:15 with coffee and pastries  

For the second day as well as looking at the broader scene of Glasgow we will cover cities like Brussels & Manchester and organisations that have managed to buck the trend and have enjoyed success in their heritage led regeneration.


Chair: Peter Trowles

Speakers on Day Two include:

Glasgow’s At-Risk Heritage – the Broader Scene
Niall Murphy:
Director, Glasgow City Heritage Trust

The talk will focus on important Glasgow buildings (not by Charles Rennie Mackintosh) under threat including potential reuse and redevelopment. This will include updates on the work Glasgow City Heritage Trust funds to provide sustainable pathways off Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register for various Glasgow Buildings along with projects the Trust has helped fund repairs to, and our concerns for the ageing heritage building stock within the Glasgow Central Conservation Area.

Conserving C20 Architecture: Hearts and Minds vs Bricks/Concrete and Mortar
Catherine Croft:
Director, 20th Century Society

Conserving C20 architecture needs more than just vigorous campaigning for individual buildings. Changing the over-arching narrative, and debunking negative myths and preconceptions is just as vital. How can we best support a positive climate for preserving the recent past and what are the primary challenges for ensuring a successful future for C20 heritage?

The Transformation of 78 Derngate, Northampton
Rob Kendall:
Trustee and Chair of Friends of 78 Derngate

In January 1998, 78 Derngate Trust was formed with the main aim of restoring the terraced house, which was designed and remodelled by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1916. The Trust setup a Friends organisation with the main aim of meticulously restoring the property and opening it to the public. 78 Derngate along with 80 & 82 has undergone an amazing transformation, ensuring that visitors can easily navigate through the three houses and their gardens.

11:25-11:45 Coffee Break

Art Schools and their cities: Engines of transformation and innovation
Penny Macbeth:
Director, The Glasgow School of Art

Many of the UK’s Art schools were founded as Government Schools of Design at the height of the Industrial revolution by a House of Commons Select Committee. Their purpose was to develop the nation's art, support the burgeoning manufacturing industry and to boost economic success.
Art schools have always been places of production, value and meaning, they craft, imagine, are curious and collaborative, they were developed to support and drive the economic transformation of their city and some continue to do so.
At this moment of exponential growth and pace for machine learning, making and production how does the Art school embrace this challenge, innovate and lead in this new industrial age and how do we continue to be relevant for our cities.
This presentation will focus on examples from my previous role as Dean of Manchester School of Art and the role I played in developing the School of Digital Arts SODA, in order to support Manchester’s ambitious growth plans in the creative and tech sectors. It will also draw on the work of the Glasgow School of Art and our reimagining of the school’s role within our city.

Discussion Panel and Questions for Speakers on issues relating to the current economic climate.

12:30-13:30 Lunch in the Hall

How Greater Manchester can build the future without destroying its past!
Elizabeth Hopkirk:
Save Britain’s Heritage

SAVE Britain’s Heritage is an independent charity that has been campaigning against the destruction and neglect of historic buildings of all types and ages for nearly 50 years.

Its most recent report, Boom Not Bust: How Greater Manchester can build the future without destroying its past, is a celebration of the region’s fine historic buildings – and an urgent call to arms. Elizabeth will highlight recent losses and examples of re-use as a catalyst for sustainable regeneration and civic pride.

Brussels, capital of Art Nouveau?
Simon Thielen:
Urbanism and Heritage Advisor
Office of Ans Persoons
Secretary of State for the Brussels Government, responsible for Urban Planning and Heritage, European and International Relations

In 2023, Brussels celebrated Art Nouveau, 130 years after the construction of the Hotel Tassel by Victor Horta, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The event was a huge success, with over a million visitors. The presentation will take stock of the making of this Art Nouveau year, based on a range of expertise and experiences developed in Brussels: the BANAD Festival (which showcases Art Nouveau and Art Deco), collaboration between the various public bodies including the Horta Museum, the Art and History museum, the organisation of Heritage Days, links with other Art Nouveau cities in Europe (and the RANN), links with contemporary creation, links with colonisation and an update on the Stoclet Palace, an emblematic World Heritage building marking the transition between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, which remains closed to the public today. The ambition of this Art Nouveau year was not an end in itself, but rather the first stage of affirming Brussels as capital of Art nouveau.

Questions for Speakers

15:00-15:20 Tea Break

The Engineers View
Graeme DeBrincat:
Arup Associate  |  Façades UK Materials | Reuse & Reclaim

The consulting engineers Ove Arup and Partners are one of the major contributors to the look of modern cities, with projects such as Sydney Opera House, The Pompidou Centre and the Lloyd’s Building to their credit.

Through a series of 20th Century building refurbishment projects across the UK, Graeme will explore the new and developing technologies of the time applied to these buildings and consider how they have performed over time, how these important buildings have been upgraded and refurbished and what the future holds for these buildings.

Conclude with an open debate from the various discussions over the two days.

Followed by after event drinks

Please note that the symposium programme is subject to change.


Tickets for the Symposium are available from Eventbrite and cost £45 per day or £70 for both days (includes lunch & refreshments)

Virtual tickets for the Symposium cost £15 per day

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