Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art is seen as his masterpiece

The Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  Picture Robert Perry.
The Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Picture Robert Perry.
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The Glasgow School of Art is now regarded as Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural masterpiece and one of the finest buildings in the UK, but it was far from universally loved when it was first built

One critic questioned why a “house of correction, or poor house” had been put up on such prominent site in the centre of Glasgow.

The Glasgow School of Art has been engulfed by flames for a second time. Picture: John Devlin

The Glasgow School of Art has been engulfed by flames for a second time. Picture: John Devlin

But, like Mackintosh himself, the status of the building grew through the 20th century to the point that its devastation in 2014 was treated like a bereavement in the city and beyond.

Mackintosh began working on the school in 1895.

He was born in Parson Street, Glasgow - only about a mile from the current building - 27 years before and he is said to have had a passion for architecture even when he was a young boy.

Mackintosh became an apprentice at an architecture practice in the city when he was 16, and later built a name for himself while working for the Honeyman and Keppie practice on a range of prominent Glasgow buildings, including the offices of The Herald.

When the practice competed to design a new building for the Glasgow School of Art, it was Mackintosh’s stark design that won.

Work began in 1897 and the build took 12 years, finally opening in 1909.

The school’s distinctive look relies on its use of sandstone and Mackintosh’s interest in incorporating so-called baronial features in the style of Scottish castles

It is seen as a masterclass in blending the emergent modernist architecture of the turn-of-the-century with a range of softer styles from around the world.

Read more: Glasgow School of Art engulfed in flames for a second time

But perhaps the most lasting impact of the building has been how Mackintosh took a total, holistic approach, designing every small detail - from clocks to desks, again blending a range of styles.

Mackintosh had himself been student at the Glasgow School of Art before he designed its new building.

It was there that he met his future wife, the artist Margaret Macdonald. With Macdonald’s sister, Frances MacDonald, and Herbert MacNair, they exhibited a range of different designs and became known as “The Four” - a group seen as an influence on the Art Nouveau movement across Europe.

Macintosh and his wife worked closely together on his architectural projects, and Macdonald is credited with being the prime force behind much of the detail within his total approach to building design.

Mackintosh spent most of his life in Glasgow but, after completing the school of art, he moved away - ending up in the Suffolk village of Walberswick.

It was here he was wrongly arrested as spy in 1915 after a misunderstanding in the village over letters he was carrying in German.

He moved away from architecture in his later years, choosing to paint watercolours instead, and he died in 1928, aged 60.

Mackintosh’s style was far from universally popular at the time of his death, but he was gradually rediscovered towards the end of the 20th century - his influence being a central theme of Glasgow’s tenure as the European City of Culture, in 1990.

Many of his greatest designs were never built, including his entry to build Liverpool Cathedral in a competition won by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

Since Mackintosh was student at the Glasgow School of Art in the late 19th century, it has produced a bewildering array of talent.

It says it has produced five Turner Prize winners and 30% of nominees since 2006. It is also the alma mater of stars including actors Peter Capaldi and Robbie Coltrane, singers Fran Healy and Sharleen Spiteri and broadcaster Muriel Gray.

Read more: Glasgow School of Art fire update: Nicola Sturgeon visits the scene