Internationally renowned and architecturally significant, the Mackintosh Building was originally built in two phases, with the central and eastern half of the building completed in 1899 and the remainder, including the world-famous library, completed in December 1909.
At this time the city and the School were particularly dynamic, embracing new artistic and educational ideas, attracting noted artists, designers and architects from all over Europe as teachers, bringing international influences to bear whilst serving the industries and communities of Glasgow.
Mackintosh did not design the building in isolation but did so reflecting his understanding of the needs of students (having been one himself) and his understanding of the developing requirements of contemporary art and design education gained through his friendship with Fra Newbery, the GSA’s Director at that time, and his staff. It was a Building that perfectly responded to its purpose.
The later west wing, with its dramatic design and dominating windows, heralded the birth of a new style in 20th century European architecture. The plentiful natural light from the north flooded into the public and studio spaces and the three distinctive windows on the western façade provided light to illuminate all five floors, including most importantly both levels of the Library.
The Library has long been considered the pinnacle of Mackintosh’s career displaying a subtle blend of use of natural materials, playfulness with natural light, decorative flair and the incorporation of what was then world-leading technology in the form of the futuristic electric lights.
Mackintosh’s School of Art was originally designed to house the entire school community, fine artists, designers, and architects. It is synonymous with both the GSA and the City, inspiring generations of students, attracting scholars and researchers to use its Archive and Collections, and hosting over 27,000 annual visitors to the regular exhibitions and student-led tours.
It was a building that, even after 100 years, fulfilled its original purpose perfectly and generated an educational legacy which was forward thinking; innovative in research, practice, and pedagogy; international in form, reach and influence and yet still made a major contribution to Glasgow’s social, cultural, and economic renaissance.