Today, Glasgow makes the most of it’s association with Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It was a different story during his lifetime. His modern style of architecture wasn’t appreciated and there was a distinct lack of commissions. Consequently, there are only a small number of buildings that he designed, or contributed to, in the city. His last major commission before he left Glasgow was the Scotland Road School. A functioning school up until 1979, it’s been preserved and today houses the Scotland Street School Museum.
During our day trip to Glasgow last week we had a couple of hours left before our train home. The Scotland Street School is almost directly opposite the Shields Road subway station, so we took the opportunity to go and have a look. The museum had closed at 5 o’clock so we couldn’t go inside, but we were able to have a reasonably good look at the exterior.
Mackintosh must have had a number of constraints placed upon him. He had to work to a standard School Board symmetrical layout, with a separate entrances for boys and girls. And there would have been financial constraints – the Board would have wanted a functional building and wouldn’t want much in the way of ornamentation and fancy design features. In that case they picked the wrong architect! Despite the constraints Mackintosh was able to incorporate design elements – at a cost though, the project went 25% over budget.
It was a particularly grey day, so the building didn’t look it’s best. It’s constructed of the red brown sandstone characteristic of Glasgow which looks attractive in bright sunlight. However when the light is poor and flat,it can look dull and details can be hard to make out. Nevertheless even a quick look suggests that this isn’t an ordinary school building.
The most striking feature is the two circular towers, which, from the front, almost appear to be made completely of glass, and the large windows on the frontage.
The top floor facade is almost completely glass, reminiscent of his most famous building, the Glasgow School of Art.
No doubt against the wishes of the School Board he managed to include a number of design elements into the structure,
- towards the top of the towers
- around the entrances
- at the top of the gable end
- on top of the chimneys
- on the otherwise very austere rear of the building
He even managed to incorporate some of his signature squares into the railings
There are some excellent photographs of the school, including the interior, here. Much better than my rushed, amateur shots.