Mackintosh: Building the Future

The buildings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh form a major component in Glasgow’s cultural heritage and are celebrated internationally. Concern however is growing about the condition and long-term future of a number of the Mackintosh buildings. The symposium on 3 February 2012 was organised by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society in partnership with the Mackintosh Heritage Group to assess what has been achieved to date and what is required for the future.

"The surviving buildings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh are of huge economic and cultural value to our country and I am delighted that you have arranged a conference to explore ways of ensuring this internationally-important heritage continues to receive the attention it deserves."
Fiona Hyslop MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs

The event was very well attended with over 70 delegates from a range of organisations, including Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, Glasgow Museums, Historic Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, Scottish Civic Trust, Scottish Enterprise, the University of Glasgow and a representative selection of architectural and design practices. The ten presentations included discussion of the role of the Buildings at Risk Register, which currently carries four Mackintosh properties; the role of Historic Scotland; the significance of Mackintosh for the marketing of Glasgow; structural issues at The Hill House; and future plans for the Ingram Street Tea Rooms and Scotland Street School.

The symposium acknowledged that significant investment has been made into a number of the properties; in the past ten years over £9 million alone has been invested in the Glasgow School of Art, Queen’s Cross Church, and Scotland Street School Museum, through a wide range of public and other support.

Particular issues were identified in relation to specific Mackintosh properties:

  • Attention needs to be paid to potential future developments at two properties: Craigie Hall, which is in the process of being sold and Queen Margaret College which was recently sold to G1 group for conversion to their HQ.
  • The Hill House: a solution needs urgently to be agreed for the failing harling which continues to cause significant problems, internally and externally.
  • Ingram Street Tea Rooms: if funding is forthcoming for the development of Kelvin Hall as a shared Study and Resource Centre, the Tea Rooms would have a valuable public face, but essential ongoing research and conservation work will require financial investment and decisions will, in the longer-term, need to be made about future display options.
  • Martyrs’ School: a secure long-term use needs to be found for the building.
  • Scotland Street School: urgent repair work is required. The conservation report by Page & Park in 2008 identified widespread areas of need in the playground, boundary walls, playground shelters, metalwork, leading, roof works, plasterwork and stone.
  • The Mackintosh House, Hunterian Art Gallery: careful discussion and consultation would be required should proposals develop to relocate the interiors from their current configuration within the Hunterian Art Gallery to the Kelvin Hall.
  • Willow Tea Rooms: Mackintosh’s most important commission for Miss Cranston and the one tea room still in operation, if only in part, is in a parlous state. The current management company, Wilson Group, states that the following extensive repairs are required: ‘complete overhaul of roof covering, render renewal in part, decorations and overhauling windows, rainwater pipes and additional sundry works’. A full conservation plan is in place, dating from 2008, but funding could not then be put together. The continuing decline in Sauchiehall Street also has a deleterious impact. The owners have recently put the property up for sale.

It is clear the Mackintosh heritage is small, fragile and precious, and action is needed. 2014 provides a catalyst with the launch of the Hunterian’s major research project into Mackintosh’s architecture, with a website, exhibition and conference, and the Commonwealth Games with its supporting Cultural programme. It was seen as important that steps should be taken to ensure that the latter included a celebration and promotion of Glasgow’s built heritage, and guidance would be sought on how to take this forward.

A full report that appeared in the latest Society Journal is available here. If you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch at stuart@crmsociety.com or tel. 0141 946 6600.

Mackintosh’s architectural heritage is of international importance and a major asset for the city of Glasgow. Much positive investment has been made over the past years, with notable success, both in safeguarding and conserving the buildings and in enhancing the visitor experience. At the same time, there remain major questions over the structural integrity and long-term future of other Mackintosh buildings. The legacy is small, vulnerable and irreplaceable.

Copyright 2017 CRM Society. All Rights Reserved