Charles Rennie Mackintosh: ‘We will lose his work if we don’t protect it’
After 50 years of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, architect’s buildings are still at risk
The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society was born of necessity.
Four of his buildings stood in the way of the motorway that Glasgow Corporation planned to build in the 1970s.
One of them, Martyr Street School, was already the subject of a demolition order when the society held its first meeting in October 1973.
“There was a lot happening in the city, and many of the plans were likely to affect Mackintosh,” says Stuart Robertson, who has been director of the society since 2001.
“Mackintosh was relatively unknown, beyond other architects and designers and as well as saving his buildings, the society’s aim was to start spreading the word about him around the world.”
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Martyrs Street School survived, as did Queen’s Cross church and Scotland Street School which, although outside the motorway ring, looked likely to be affected.
Ingram Street tearooms did sit inside the development and were demolished in 1971, although the rooms were documented and catalogued before being put into storage.
In 1978 they were transferred to Glasgow Museums. Some pieces were eventually restored and returned to public view, including the Oak Room which is now on show at the V&A Dundee.
Michael Dale, who has just been appointed chair of the CRM Society, has led many of Scotland’s cultural organisations including the Edinburgh Fringe, events at the Glasgow Garden Festival and the West End festival.
“1990 was a huge turning point in terms of tourism,” he says. “We suddenly had tourists and we created a market for Mackintosh, someone who is here every day of the week, every week of the year and every year for the last 50 years.
“We need to persuade government – local and national – that it’s worth investing in.
“They managed to find £565m for Commonwealth Games which lasted 11 days, so think about the kind of impact investing in Mackintosh could have.”
A survey of Mackintosh buildings carried out by the Society in 2015 concluded the estate was “small, fragile and precious”.
It included the Mackintosh School of Art, damaged by a fire in 2014, and almost entirely lost in a second fire in 2018.