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The Lighthouse of Culture in Glasgow
I was quite surprised by this find - there are a number of exhibitions spaces and two tall viewing locations as well as a café.
It is free to visit and seems to be a hive of activity especially during school time with pupils and students making visits to the facilities on show.
The views over the city are wonderful, and some of the exhibitions are well worth the visit.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, outstanding architect, furniture designer, and painter, is one of the most innovative figures of the early 20th century. Fittingly Glasgow is honouring him throughout 2006 with celebrations of his work with over 100 events at over 30 settings.
In reality though, the celebrations started in 1999 when the Lighthouse opened as Scotland's centre for architecture and design. Mackintosh himself had designed the building in 1895 for other purposes but the building has proved adaptable. A tower originally containing a water tank for dousing fires but now incorporating a spiral staircase makes the name ‘Lighthouse’ appropriate.
The forth floor hosts a permanent Mackintosh Interpretation Centre. A viewing platform on the 6th level shows when looked across Glasgow, the city’s just reasons for celebrating its architecture. Galleries in the centre educate visitors on the aims, achievements, and problems facing architects. The centre has an interactive, creative play environment for young children and a dedicated education floor extending to 1000 square metres, including workshop, computer laboratory, gallery space, and an innovative project called the Urban Learning Space. There is also a conference centre, shop, and two cafes. Since opening the centre has welcomed well over 1 million visitors.
Mackintosh pioneered the Modern Movement in Britain. Artistic collaboration with his wife Margaret Macdonald, whom he first met at Glasgow School of Art, extended his frontiers. He took his inspiration from Scottish traditions and blended them with the flourish of Art Nouveau and the simplicity of Japanese forms. By skillful exploitation of natural and artificial lighting and use of detail, his buildings are notable for their elegance and fitness for purpose. Some of his well-known pieces of furniture have become icons.
Mackintosh's died in London in 1928 but his designs gained in popularity in the decades following his death. Born in 1868 near Glasgow Cathedral, he is one of the most celebrated architects of his generation, although not all of his designs made it through to the building stage in his time. His plans for a House for an Art Lover only became bricks and mortar in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park during 1996.
The University of Glasgow helps display Mackintosh work. It rebuilt a terraced house he had designed which now forms part of the University's Hunterian Museum. Inside are displays of his and Margaret's work.
Mackintosh designed the Glasgow School of Art in Renfrew Street when only 28 years old. The outside and interior, furnishings, and decoration of this Art Nouveau building, built between 1897 and 1909, reflect his genius. Architects and designers from all over the world come to admire it.
A block away in Sauchiehall Street is Mackintosh's ‘Willow Tearoom’ designed in 1903 for Kate Cranston who made tearooms fashionable. Restored to its original Mackintosh Art Nouveau design, right down to the decorated tables and chairs gave us an interesting place for a snack. Upstairs we found further displays. Across the city there are many more examples of his work.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture
Although designed in 1893 as offices for the Glasgow Herald Newspaper, a purpose for which it was used from 1895-1980, it sat empty for two decades until it was renovated in 1999 and re-introduced to the public as The Lighthouse. The prominent tower, for which the building is named, was designed by Charles Rennie Makintosh (1868-1928), an architect, designer and artist who blended Scottish traditions with Art Nouveau and Japanese styles to become one of the celebrated men of his generation in Scotland, and had a major influence on European design.
The origin of the name comes from the castle like tower that Makintosh designed as an early fire extinguisher to hold over 8000 gallons of water in order to safeguard the building should it ever catch fire, a problem for buildings containing newpapers. It was his first public commission, but one of many he would complete during his lifetime. Due to the influence of Makintosh on its design, the building houses the Makintosh Interpretation Centre, dedicated to his life and work as well as the history of the building itself. The centre also serves a role in promoting culture and the arts in the city of Glasgow as a place celebrating creativity, holding lectures and workshops in a variety of fields and a design market that allows artisans to sell their creations to the public.
The Lighthouse contains a number of levels:
- Level 1: Changing galleries focused on Scottish design and Architecture.
- Level 2: Architecture & Design Scotland, Makintosh Library & workshops
- Level 3: Makintosh Exhibition & shop
- Level 4: Foundation exhibition & Glasgow shop
- Level 5: Dodocot Café, Gallery
- Level 6: Viewing Platform (access by lift)
- Level 7: Tower (access by stairs from level 3)
The Makintosh exhibitions are particularly interesting. There is an information area giving the location of Mackintosh buildings and collections, the interpretion gallery examining Mackintosh and his wife Margaret MacDonald’s life and work together. This gallery itself has three sections too. There is also the tower with a helical staircase rising up to an outside viewing area overlooking the city for some vistas of Glasgow.
The Lighthouse as well as the Charles Rennie Makintosh Society has done much to promote a broader awareness of Makintosh as an architect and artist, which has led to a ‘rediscovery’ of his work. The revival in public interest has led to the refurbishment and opening of other buildings of his design, such as the Willow Tea Room which many members have reviewed here on VT. My photos hardly cover what can be seen here at The Lighthouse.
On a personal note, I was suitably impressed on visiting here. I had never heard of Charles Rennie Makintosh, but found his work both intriguing and aesthetically pleasing. It was satisfying to see that his life work is celebrated this way and being ‘rediscovered’ by a new generation. A good way I though to pay tribute to that is to make this review here to let others know, so they may discover on their own or pay a visit here should they find themselves visiting Glasgow.
- Historical Travel
The Lighthouse - Architecture and Design
Did I mention The Lighthouse? Well I certainly should have done, being an architecture student!
Before you ask, The Lighthouse is not actually a lighthouse ;-) In fact it is an exhibition centre for the applied arts, which has been converted from one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's buildings in the heart of the city. Now you have six floors of galleries with a shop and pleasant cafe. Terraces at the top give you views over Glasgow. The centre is quite well hidden amongst Glasgow's tall shops, but reasonably well signposted.
There is a permanent exhibition about the architecture and design of Mackintosh, Glasgow's famous turn-of-the-20th-century architect, CRM. Also you have a variety of temporary exhibitions from all over the world.
Open 7-days a week. See website for current entrance prices (circa 3 GBP for adults)
- Arts and Culture
This is an art museum/gallery in a building that was designed by Charles Renee MacIntosh, a famous Glasgow architect and designer. The 3rd floor features a display about some of the buildings he designed and from there you can take a few flights of stairs up to the top of the tower which has great views over the centre of Glasgow and beyond (pictured) There are other art exhibits on the other floors, most of which are temporary. Cost about £2.50 entry
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