Quiet Moments: Glasgow School of Art

Sonically, the Glasgow School of Art is not all that quiet. It’s a working art school, with students coming and going all the time. This last good while, too, there’s been quite a bit of demolition and construction going on just across the street from the front door of the school. adding in bits of noise to the landscape.

That landscape is the point, though, and what the main building of the Glasgow School of Art brings to it: visual quiet.

The Glasgow School of Art was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. In his time — he designed the school in the late 1890s — he was a pioneer of drawing on forms from nature and on creative uses of light and shadow, as well as simplicity of line and form.

The art school has been standing in Renfrew Street in the Garnet Hill neighborhood of Glasgow for just a bit longer than a hundred years now. It stands amidst buildings from an older century, most of them family houses, student residences, bed and breakfast guesthouses, a primary school down the street on one side, and other side, residences giving way to modern day business premises, and around the corner and down a steep hill, the lively bustle of one of Glasgow’s main thoroughfares. Sauchiehall Street.

With its quiet and clean lines, its windows opening up to light, its graceful ironwork and solid stone, it fits right in with all of this.

I’ve spent a good bit of time in Glasgow these last years. When I am there, I walk by the art school several times a day. Whether I’m seeing morning sunshine marking the windows and the steps or noticing a late night light shining from a window high above. Rennie Mackintosh’s design reminds me of the ways a building can speak, can give pause, can open up space, can offer peace, without saying a word.

Also to consider

Want to know more about Charles Rennie Macintosh? This story about Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s life and work in Glasgow is a good place to start.

The Glasgow School of Art is a working school, so to see Mackintosh’s designs of the interior spaces, you have to book a tour with them. Update: There was a massive fire at the school in the spring of 2014, and areas are still closed. However, you can visit the gallery and visitors center across the street from the main building, and take walking tours of the city they offer. Work on restoring the main building is ongoing. –> Further update: a second massive fire in early summer 2018 destroyed much of the restoration work. Plans had to change, but work continues on ways to preserve this icon of Glasgow.

A soundtrack of music of Scotland to go along with your contemplation of Scottish architecture

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