Review: A jewel in Scotland’s crown

Review: A jewel in Scotland's crown

As controversy rages over the reinstatement of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art, this timely and thoroughly researched book makes an eloquent plea for the restoration of what was a jewel in Scotland’s artistic and cultural crown.

The Mack was considered to be the great masterpiece of the revered architect and for a century its soaring studios and intricately detailed spaces provided inspiration and a creative atmosphere for generations of Scottish artists and architects.

The tragedy of this iconic building falling victim to not one, but two fires in 2014 and 2018 cannot be understated in cultural terms. As estimated rebuild costs rocket ever upwards, more than £100 million now, and insurance difficulties mount, this excellent book is a timely reminder of what we stand to lose.

Robyne Calvert, an American cultural historian, firmly sets the development of The Mack in its cultural context and describes its architectural evolution in detail. Lavishly illustrated with photographs and drawings the book celebrates a building that was unique in its design with an eclectic adoption of varying styles – Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, Aestheticism and, lesser known, Symbolism.

The author was appointed Mackintosh Research Fellow in 2015 with a remit to research the building and to document its restoration and reconstruction. As a result Ms Calvert has been able to use her unique access to produce a detailed and well-written book that is accessible to experts and the general reader alike.

It is a fitting salute to a monumental building that meant so much to the people of Glasgow and Scotland… and still does.

The Mack: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow School of Art by Robyne Calvert. Published by Yale University Press, 208pp, £35.

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