Glasgow School of Art | Mackintosh House | Willow Tea Rooms
Ruchill Church Hall | Queens Cross Church | Martyrs' Public School
The Lighthouse | Daily Record Building | Scotland Street School
House for an Art Lover
Yup, you don't have to tell me that by listing the top ten Glasgow Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings as only one of the best Glasgow attractions, I'm just being a cheat.
Well fair enough, I'll take the insults.
However, the reason I'll still be able to sleep at night is because by lumping them all into the one pile, all I'm doing is to recognise the absolute genius contribution Rennie Mackintosh has made to our architecture and way of life here, so much so that the man himself has gone and developed into one huge attraction all on his own (and not just because he shares a birthday with me!).
Now there's a statement and a half - you'd better be able to back it up Docherty.
Well I'm not worried about that at all, because I reckon that when you unlock and breathe in for yourself these stunning, visionary Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, you won't need my paltry words to explain their importance.
In architectural circles it's completely rare to come across instant visual recognition, you know, when you look at a building or a piece of furniture and clock immediately who designed it. The creative and unique significance of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's work is such that you just know when you've seen it, no matter how versed you might be in the subject.
To be perfectly honest (what can I say, I'm a nice guy), I could write reams and reams of pages on the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, on the man's work and influence, how its beauty unfurls even today out of our grit-soiled history of lumbering industry, why it's one of the few scraps of Scots-borne mastery that Glaswegiansdon't take for granted, but to really figure out the reason Mackintosh left such a lasting impression on Glasgow's deeply innovative psyche, and perhaps more tellingly on the ever-burgeoning cultural movement in Europe, the only way you can do that is by spending some quality time in and around these magnificent buildings.
Take a tour of each of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, listen to your tour guide if you want to, but don't stop there. You don't have to know much about architecture - Once you've delved into the soul of these structures, captured how his distinctive motifs and shapes appear to drift their way through every brick, every table and chair, just take a walk around Glasgow after that, and try to see if you notice the Mackintosh blueprint nestling behind anything else, whether it's in the fabric of a building, the theme of a restaurant, even in the glass of busy shop windows and the jewellery behind them.
It won't take long before you notice that the dynamic work he bequeathed us, his art nouveau hunger for artistic revolution, has integrated our way of life to such an extent that it's moulded over the years into a stimulating pulse that beats under everything Glasgow aspires to be, beneath our continuing desire to write an imaginative new chapter in our smokestack biography, and make no mistake, that's saying something for a wee lad fae Townhead.
So have a look at my very brief introduction to the best Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings in Glasgow, pick up a good book about the man, and a cost-saving Mackintosh Trail Ticket at a Tourist Centre, SPT Travel Centre or at one of the attractions below, find the places on a map and visit them yourself to make sure that I'm not over-egging the pudding as usual!
The Mac, as it's affectionately known in these here parts, is considered the central masterpiece of all the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, and houses one of the world's foremost institutions for the study and advancement of art & design, with its emergent artists, designers & architects pushing the envelope every day and justifying Glasgow's place within the core of the world's contemporary art movement.
This explosion of a building sits at the top of most critics' list of the most innovative structures ever built in the UK, and was described by Sir Christopher Frayling, Rector of London's Royal College of Art, as 'the only art school in the world where the building is worthy of the subject...this is a work of art in which to make works of art'.
Taking a tour of the Glasgow School of Art you'll see Mackintosh's meticulous eye feature in pretty much every exterior and interior part of the building. You'll witness his world famous Mackintosh Rose sprout up exquisitely in wrought iron and then cultivate its way through asymmetric façades, towards the intricately spacious library and halls, and into a gallery coated in some of the most inspirational pieces of art and design I've ever seen. I was lucky enough to be there when they were also showing off the work of the graduating students, and given the breathtaking quality on display it was patently obvious just how powerful this place is when you've got a creative mind.
When you get here, ask for the guided tour, as you'll get far more access that way.
Stuck rather strangely onto the side of the Glasgow University Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, is a reconstruction of one of the most intimate Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, the Mackintosh House. It really is quite amazing when you stop and think what the museum has done here. This is an inch-perfect recreation of Mackintosh's actual home at 78 Southpark Avenue, just down the road from where it stood originally before it was demolished due to subsidence problems.
We're talking here about the same dimensions, same exploration of light and cutting-edge design, with the exact colour schemes, fabrics and furniture, leaving you with the pretty remarkable feeling that you're walking around and seeing exactly what Mackintosh would have seen back in the early 1900's, as he sat there reading his paper with the Sunday morning sun beaming precisely through the windows.
This stunning effect is made all the more delightful when you take a look at the stark and disembodied contrast of the outside of the building, with its front door hanging suspended above the ground without any stairs leading up to it, and the whole façade merging so closely with the University building that you'd be forgiven for not noticing it as you walked on by.
It makes it look like in the middle of the night a few years back, some cheeky students with nothing better to do went and uprooted the original house, lugged it a hundred yards down the road as quietly as possible, and then for a laugh just glued it onto the side of some nondescript building in the hope that no-one would notice. Yeah, I'm sure that's how it was done.
(Honestly though - it wasn't me!)
As Tracey has pointed out to me, this is one of my favourite Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings only due to the fact that it's got a menu in it!
The great thing about this place is that you could be shopping your heart out in the City Centre, your mind filled only with bargain buys & queue jumping, yet when you pop into the Willow Tea Rooms for a bite to eat or a refreshing drink, in a flash you're transported to a polite, bygone age, decorated in luxurious artistic symmetry which makes you forget for a while the need to rush around.
My stomach tells me that it's the best of all Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings because you can tuck into a fine menu of delights like cullen skink, haggis or a St. Andrew's Platter, or you can even sip your way like a Lord or Lady through an afternoon tea & scones, in opulent surroundings that belie the absorbing consumerism reaking turmoil on the street outside.
Other than the menu though, the Willow was the only tea room building in which Mackintosh had 100% control over every part of its design, and his influence shines through each window, every piece of furniture, glass and cutlery, leaving you with a complete appreciation of what he himself wanted to feel when he sat there for his tea break!
Take your time to explore the Room de Luxe and the Gallery, two rooms which spring from the same mind but completely contradict each other, and I can guarantee that when you step back out into the hustle of Sauchiehall Street, you'll be feeling slightly more relaxed and refined than you did when you went in - putting aside that this is one of those jewel in the crown Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, at the end of the day you just can't beat a great cup of tea!
This is one of the lesser known Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, and was designed originally for the Wee Free, our colloquial name for the Free Church of Scotland.
It's a relatively simple two-story building fleshed out with the usual Mackintosh trimmings, and is used every day by an active congregation so I'd recommend being respecful to the locals using the place.
You'll find there a few committee rooms and a Mackintosh Tearoom, but the big draw has to be the main hall pictured here, and given the time and effort Mackintosh put into its design and construction, you may well end up with the impression as I get that it looks quite distractingly out of place amongst the area of Ruchill surrounding the hall, without its effect being diminished.
My personal favourite here however, is the open passageway between the hall and the church adjoining it, as if you stand just inside the doorway, it opens up a chance for you to take without any effort an architectural photo professional enough to land itself on the pages of any gallery!
It really is the case that every one of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings in Glasgow are designed so intricately, that taking photos from any angle will end up impressing your friends & family, unless of course you ruin the moment by standing in front of the camera with a cheesy smile on your face!
When my interest in Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings was first kindled, I was completely flummoxed that in his lifetime he'd only ever designed and had built one church, the modern gothic Queens Cross Church in Maryhill.
However, the more I looked into it, the more apparent it became that given the artistic latitude offered to Mackintosh on other projects, and the resulting (and sometimes controversial) flair of his work, the stricter and more conventional attitude of the various religious institutions had ensured that he'd never been commissioned for more churches.
That's a shame though, because taking a browse in and around the Queens Cross Church, you may begin to appreciate just how appropriately his designs go hand in hand with the conflict of solemnity & gloriousness you'd expect in a church.
I may say that this is one of the least visited Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, even though it's the international HQ of the CRM Society, and reveals to you someastounding examples of Mackintosh's mastery in stained glass and his ornately carved wood & stone work. The last time that I popped along to see it I was the only person there, and believe it or not I had to ring the bell and wait about 5 minutes before the curator finally opened the door and let me in!
Quite astonishing given the sights I was privy to once I walked around the place, and I'd certainly recommend that if the same happens to you when you visit, a little patience will be richly rewarded (although don't go there on a Saturday as I'm pretty sure it's closed).
This is one of the earliest Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, and was built on the same street Mackintosh himself was born on.
To be perfectly honest, if you come to this school looking for the delicate and distinctive motifs normally associated with the man, you might be a little disappointed, because in designing this place Mackintosh had in mind more in the way of utility rather than impressive decoration.
The reason you shouldn't ignore this as a great Glasgow attraction however, is that it gives you a deeper insight into the flowing timeline of Mackintosh's work and inspiration, being one of his first forays into art nouveau, and because in the organic woodwork and tiling inside, it still reflects his desire to break the mould and sculpt a new, unique artistry.
If anything, it's a brilliant stop if you're doing a tour of the High Street, and deserves its place of pride amongst all the other Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings in the continual preservation of Glasgow's memory.
This is the great view you get from the top of the Lighthouse, one of my favourite Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings. The pretty unique 360° rooftop panorama you don't see in this photo however, is just something you'll have to experience for yourself.
Of all the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings therefore, this, the former head office of the Glasgow Herald newspaper, is a structure which brings delight looking out as well as within. It's the internationally trumpeted home of Scotland's Centre for Architecture, Design and the City, and whilst there's some underground controversy in these parts about how much funding this place gets in comparison with other similar projects all around Scotland, as a visitor you can put all that to one side and simply appreciate just how exciting a venue the Lighthouse is, given just how much time, effort and hard cash has been pumped into it.
Take some tourist time to snap some sparkling photos of the wonderfully captivating spiral staircase (be careful when you're leaning over the banister!), the rooftop view and from the outside, the majesty of the building itself as it shoots unfettered into the sky. I'd suggest though, that if you really want to experience the life and effect of Mackintosh without heaving your way through some book, just put the camera away for a while and breathe in the insightful Mackintosh Interpretation, and all the interactive and genuinely enthralling exhibits, workshops & seminars peppered around the building, before resting your mind and your weary legs in The Doocot, the ultra modern café on the 5th floor with its cutting-edge design and well-coveted gnocci (yeah there's a surprise Docherty - it always comes down to the food!).
To get a better flavour of what'll be on when you visit, I'd recommend the official site thelighthouse.co.uk, but as I always conclude no matter what I'm on about when it comes to the best Glasgow attractions, the most fruitful way of approaching this gaff is simply to open your mind and enjoy it when you get there.
Being a lover of all Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, it's with some embarrassing regret that I have to admit that whilst it may well still feature on your shiny Mackintosh Trail Ticket, when it comes to restoration the Daily Record Building has been long forgotten, lost some time ago within the darkness of commerce and everyday ignorance.
Today it houses only an indie cool vegetarian café, bar & gig venue called Stereo, and whilst it is a pretty funky place to hang out, for me an historic building like this deserves a great deal more in the way of rejuvenation. Before Stereo opened, it had stood for too long as nothing but a tragic shell, hidden away in a poorly lit lane, kind of like the forgotten ornament in your loft or garage, gradually attracting the creeping dust of abandonment. And believe me, it really is nothing but a crying shame, because for a City that spends so much time telling everyone how proud we are of our history, to take an electrifying tour of all these internationally famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, it beggars belief that absolutely no public funds have been made available to reinvigorate this one, particularly when you consider just how magnificently important the Daily Record building and its vital streams of news became to our ancestors during WWII.
I mean yes, you can revel in the white glazed brick and the stylised Tree of Life motifs adorning the walls, contrasting with the shadows depriving the surrounding buildings of light, and you can eye a few alternative gigs after a decent meal there, but for me that's not enough. I get the most out of appreciating architecture by acknowledging its guts and memory, and faced with no indications inside about the history of the building, I'm left without a full understanding of how Mackintosh's work and inspiration influenced those who'd had the opportunity to work here every day, bringing life to his imagination.
I'd just love it if I could walk inside and take a look around a meticulous restoration of its inner workings, but I reckon that the only alternative is to shout from the rooftops about why this brilliant piece of our artistic development, one of the most instrumental of all the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, deserves just a little bit more of our attention.
Don't let that stop you exploring the place though, because despite its understated emptiness, it remains one of the most significant Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings in Glasgow's history.
This is one of the greatest examples of just how much the inspiration injected into the great Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings has shaped Glasgow.
Making your way into and around the Scotland Street School Museum (otherwise known as 'Scotland Street Public School' or 'Scotland Street Primary School'), you'll witness first hand how differently our children were educated throughout the Victorian era, WWII and up to the 60's. You can actually walk around with your guides (the Jannie, the Heidie & the Teach - it'll all make sense when you get there!) in perfectly restored classrooms, the cloakrooms in which friendships were formed & fights broken up, and use cutting-edge interactive technology to learn all about the developing methods of teaching and discipline in Scotland, and the forgotten games won & lost in the playground over the years.
You'll be able to hear & read the recollections of school pupils, and even sit in on a re-enacted lesson conducted in a scarily formal classroom (I'd be careful about this one though - it has the tendency to make you feel again like the child you outgrew years ago, as it reinvigorates your own fond memories of playing the fool in class or building up the courage to ask someone out!...).
However, all this won't make you forget that at the end of the day, this is one of those jaw-dropping Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings you should visit at least once in your life, and everywhere you look you'll see his designs integrate into the character of the school, creating the type and level of institutional enlightenment experienced by students every day in the Glasgow School of Art.
You can even find out why Mackintosh fought tooth & nail with the School Board here, and explore the imposing leaded glass towers, the eye-perplexing stonework & tiled entrance hall, and more importantly the pure mastery of an architect who, by the time he'd been commissioned for this, the last of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings finished in Glasgow when he was alive, had matured his skills to a level of near perfection.
Just imagine what it would've been like to be a pupil there!
Some might say that I've left the best of the Glasgow Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings to last, given that it's thought of as the only big one in which he'd been given 100% artistic freedom, and which reflects more than any of his other work, the true extent of his genius mind.
The designs for this breathtaking piece of artistry emanated from a wee German architecture competition from which Mackintosh had been disqualified (in typical Scots fashion he'd submitted his entry after the deadline!).
The rooms in this place really are so astounding that even with a good thesaurus and a direct line to Shakespeare, my words couldn't do them justice. All I'll say is that if you're pressed for time and don't know which of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings to visit, put this one smack bang at the top of your list. It's always busy here, and as well as the unforgettable visionary designs & architecture on display, if you plan your visit well you might be lucky to enjoy one of the feisty music recitals or dinner concerts they put on, after you've spent some quality time in the Art Lovers' Café & Shop or in one of the outstanding art exhibitions organised regularly.
I'm really not kidding when I say that this place is so absorbing, so inspirational even for folks who know nothing about design & architecture, that writing about it may well diminish your anticipation. Just clear an afternoon, go there, amble around with an open mind, and send me your photos and thoughts (after experiencing the sheer wonder of the House for an Art Lover, my favourite of all the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, I'll expect nothing short of sonnets and poetry from you!).
For more information I'd recommend a wee look at the official site, houseforanartlover.co.uk.
So I hope that you've enjoyed my little intro to the best of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings in Glasgow.
As I alluded to earlier, it's very much a brief introduction because, even though you might think I've just bored you to tears by writing this million-word page, to be perfectly honest I could go on and on and on and on about this magnificently talented man and his lasting legacies to my home town (and of course to the rest of Scotland, and I'd recommend that if you're heading out of Glasgow you should amble over to Mackintosh's stunningly beautiful Hill House in Helensburgh).
I'll call it quits now therefore, and end this by wishing you the most enjoyable and inspirational of times as you tour around these superb attractions, and you might want to end your tour at Townhead where it all began, because you'll see that in 2008 we finally erected there an eminently cool statue dedicated to and inspired by Mackintosh.
A fitting tribute to one of Glasgow's best loved sons.