The Mackintosh Architecture Project


You would think, with Charles Rennie Mackintosh being so revered, especially in Glasgow, that a definitive survey of his architecture would have been made long ago. Wrong! The Mackintosh Architecture project, led by the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University, will be the first authoritative survey of all known architectural projects by Mackintosh and also, for the period of his professional career in Glasgow (1889 to 1913), of projects by John Honeyman & Keppie (from 1901 Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh). At the moment, the project link leads to sample pages from the resulting catalogue – the whole database goes live in July, and will be accompanied by a major exhibition at the Hunterian.

One of the researchers, Dr Nicky Imrie, recently came to the MmITS AGM to give a talk on her experiences of working on this fascinating project. She discussed the challenges of identifying Mackintosh’s architectural work, how they tackled the process of cataloguing and digitising the diverse sources, and some of the perils faced along the way, such as being accidentally locked into the odd building! The website now has 358 project entries and 2700 images and, although the catalogue is at its heart, it also contains biographies of contractors and clients, essays, a glossary and a map.

As a result, lesser known and under-researched architecture and buildings to which Mackintosh merely made a contribution have been documented. As they were working, researchers gave each a building a “Mack Factor” to indicate Mackintosh’s involvement. These ranged from 1 (beyond doubt) to 4 (executed during his period of employment but with no evidence of his involvement). There were two buildings mentioned which I know well, but which I had no idea had anything to do with Mackintosh.

I have walked past Ayton House in Dowanhill many times. Originally built around 1859, it was damaged in the 1941 blitz and almost demolished in the 1980s. However, a developer took it over and restored it with a decidedly 21st century penthouse. I’ve always been so fascinated by this that I’ve never looked round the side and noticed what Nicky identified as a Mackintosh extension with Mack Factor 1. Since the talk, I have been back to the house to photograph it:

The other building is Jordanhill School. I worked for many years at Jordanhill College / Campus which overlooked what was originally its demonstration school. I’m not sure what its Mack Factor is, as Nicky only mentioned it in passing but, according to Stuart McLean’s Jordanhill Local History site,  it was built by Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh after a design competition in 1912, and Mackintosh received £250 as his part in it – though there might have been some dispute about the exact attribution. I took the photograph below when I was documenting the campus before it closed in 2012.

Jordanhill School
Jordanhill School

All in all, this was a fascinating talk and I’m really looking forward to the exhibition and website going live so that I can find out more.

Bridgeton Library and Mediatheque

Bridgeton Library exterior
Bridgeton Library

Bridgeton Library opened in December 2012 in the Olympia, a former variety theatre and cinema, redeveloped with the help of Clyde Gateway. I’ve visited several times before, as it’s just across the road from Glasgow Women’s Library which is now based in its old premises – see my post on Scottish Women on Wikipedia, an event GWL held in Bridgeton Library, for photos of the interior. This visit was organised by MmITS (Multimedia Information and Technology Scotland) specifically to look at the Mediatheque.

However, before we did that Sally Clegg told us a bit about the plans behind the new library and we had a tour of the rest of the building. Bridgeton is an area of multiple deprivation and Glasgow Libraries wanted to do something different for the community. They used focus groups, although not all the ideas were practical – one man requested that children should be banned! In fact, the library now has a very attractive children’s library complete with Julia Donaldson mural. Overall, it is a bright and welcoming place with clear zoning. It has a training suite (which we used for the Wikipedia event) and 32 PCs in total, as opposed to just 6 in the old library. A Turning Pages table shares library information and information and work from the community – there is a Book Group and groups for poetry and creative writing. Issues have tripled since the move and Bridgeton has gone from the bottom five to the top ten of Glasgow’s 32 libraries – that seems pretty good to me, although they are still hoping for more.

The Library occupies the ground floor of the building. At the moment, the top floor is a huge, unoccupied loft space with good views over the roofs of Bridgeton. The middle floor is used by Boxing Scotland – apparently, boxers have been training there for the Commonwealth Games but it was empty when we passed.

Finally, it was on to the Mediatheque which opened a little later than the library – almost a year ago. Karen Gillies and Stephen MacPherson talked us through this. From purpose-built booths you can access a digital jukebox of over 2000 items from the BFI Archive, including some Scottish material but nothing local to Bridgeton as yet. Stephen had provided a list of sites he thought might interest us – I was particularly taken by Whatsoever a man soweth, a silent film from 1917 warning soldiers about the perils of loose women. The unfortunately named (Private?) Dick was rescued from peril several times by fearsome-looking busybodies and despatched to a VD clinic to see the consequences of falling. I then chanced upon a lovely little set of films with people from Gateshead talking about their reactions to the building of the Angel of the North. After that we had tea and biscuits and further chat before heading home with our goody bags. Thanks to all the staff at Bridgeton for showing us this wonderful initiative, and to MmITS for organising the visit. The Mediatheque is free to use during library opening hours.

RCPSG - Lower Library
RCPSG – Lower Library

This was not the only library visit I have been on in the last couple of weeks. I also went to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Library with SALCTG and wrote it up on the SALCTG blog. It’s another fascinating building – if you want to take a look yourself the Crush Hall (with a monthly changing exhibition) and the Library Reading Room are open to the public on Monday afternoons from 2pm till 5pm.


MmITS AGM 09/05/13

Contains the announcement of Library Camp Glasgow! 26 October.

PS I have no idea why the Book Week Scotland picture has attached itself to this post – it doesn’t show up in editing and I can’t delete it!

Glasgow Library Tweetups

I was delighted to be invited to speak about GLTU at the MmITS (Multimedia and Information Technology Scotland) AGM last week. It took place in the beautiful Royal Faculty of Procurators’ building in Glasgow, and there was an opportunity to look at their library afterwards. There’s an account of the meeting, including my talk, on the excellent MmITS blog so I refer you to that for details. An exciting extra was that I was able to announce the very first Scottish Library Camp (Saturday 26th October, Mitchell Library) because we’d just firmed up the date the day before. Watch this space and see #LibCampGla on Twitter. Below are some pictures of the afternoon – thanks to Louise Morrison of MMITS and Cathy Kearney of CILIPS for additions to my own photographs.

View original post

Continuing adventures of a retired librarian

This blog has been sadly neglected – because I have been BUSY! Never need I have worried about filling up my time after leaving work. Most of the activity has been social media related – notably the eighth in the series of Glasgow Library Tweetups that I have organised. This was a behind the scenes tour of Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, one of the biggest reference libraries in Europe. The highlight was undoubtedly seeing the Leningrad Album, which is not normally on view, in Special Collections. During the Siege of Leningrad in the Second World War, the women of Airdrie and Coatbridge, near Glasgow, sent an album of solidarity and support to the women of Leningrad, who, despite living in dreadful conditions, managed to reciprocate. It’s a beautiful piece of work and the stories attached to it are very moving. You can read more on the GLTU blog.

I’ve been asked to speak about GLTU at the MmITS AGM next month – in fact I’m quite busy speaking, having already given talks on using Twitter to engage with users to Glasgow Women’s Library, Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre and Glasgow University School of Engineering. I never used to do talks beyond my own organisation, so this is quite a surprise.

I’ve also done a couple of guest blog posts for Glasgow Book Groups and Glasgow Women’s Library – you might notice a certain overlap of content, but, hey, who doesn’t recycle material. I’ve mentioned GWL twice now – I volunteer there regularly, and fully intend to write a complete post about it soon. It’s a wonderful organisation.

Before we leave the subject of blogs, I’m very proud to say that I have also got my 83 year old Dad blogging! He’s a retired minister who recently gave up preaching after 60+ years, and a blog is an ideal way for him to continue to share his faith. He supplies the content and I post it – find him at John Mitchell – called and sent.

Coming up next week? I’m volunteering at Aye Write!, Glasgow’s Book Festival. I’ll be on the door at nine sessions and, assuming there aren’t too many latecomers, get to listen in. I’m particularly looking forward to Patrick Ness and Jackie Kay. I’ve also got an induction session as a media and communications volunteer at the Scottish Refugee Council, and there are other opportunities in the pipeline which are not yet formed enough to write about.

So I realise, as someone who used to work full time, that this may not sound all that busy, but I do have a serious point to make. When my job disappeared, I thought I would have to sit down to plan my future to avoid sinking into lethargy. That would no doubt have worked, but actually I never did it. I kept an eye open for suitable openings, and one thing led to another. Before I finished work, I spotted a request to help Glasgow Libraries with Book Week Scotland. Doing that, and proving I was reliable, led directly to Aye Write. I saw a request from Glasgow Women’s Library for new members of their Women Make History Group – after joining that, I got involved in many more aspects of their work (really must write that blogpost). I spotted the Scottish Refugee Council opportunity on Twitter, and using social media generally has given me lots of connections. The skills and knowledge I have built up over many years in work are in demand, and I can concentrate on the interesting ones without having to worry about the dull stuff, such as invoices or statistics. So to anyone else contemplating retirement, assuming the financial situation is right, I would say, go for it. There’s a new world out there waiting for you.