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Glasgow School of Art

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Mackintosh would have found common cause with today’s Glasgow students

In the year in which we celebrate the centenary of the completion of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art, and in view of the recent attention the school has attracted in the architectural press (there was speculation that there would be more than 1,000 entries for the international competition to overhaul the site opposite) it is an apt time to assess whether Mackintosh’s adage that ‘there is hope in honest error; none in the icy perfections of the mere stylist’ is relevant to the work on display at the architecture department’s annual degree show.

Pride of place in the Grace and Clark Fyfe main gallery space this year is granted to a selection of work by first and second year students, who have clearly had a great deal of fun. Their enthusiasm is evident in the output on display: they have been making custom T-shirts; building full-scale timber prototypes of experimental body supporting structures; and forming novel ideas about how the city might be adapted to better suit its inhabitants – rooftop spa resorts, anyone?

Expecting to see this energy carried into the work of the upper years, I ventured upwards to the gallery space on the first floor, which houses both the third and fourth year work. The sheer amount of information squeezed on the walls here is notable; to digest it fully is no mean task.

For the third year students, gone was the inspirational brief from last year to design a boat and shipwreck restoration facility in Eyemouth, which threw up several cracking schemes, and in its place was a rather bog-standard project to design a musician’s retreat in rural Glenluce. Most projects on display reflect the generic nature of the brief and are sensitive to the context, well planned, but largely uninspired. Notable exceptions are the wonderfully presented scheme by David O’Reilly and a rather enjoyable take on the brief from Andras Dankhazi, which is monolithic in form, and one of the few to challenge its rural setting.

Ciara Reynolds’ scheme is the pick of the fourth year projects. She has presented the masterplan and subsequent urban housing proposals which form the scope of the year’s work with some fun graphics that add a real sense of character and place.

After the overload of the undergraduate work some breathing space is thankfully afforded to the work of diploma students, which occupies the top floor of the building. The diploma course focuses on large urban public buildings and the schemes presented are a result of rigorous studies in various European cities, including Glasgow, Barcelona, and Porto. The projects have been consistently well presented throughout, with gargantuan sectional perspectives de rigueur

Jonathan Middleton

Jonathan Middleton

Highlights include Jonathan Middleton’s impressive cliff-side monastery in Porto, presented in a series of charcoal drawings and a large sectional model, and Niamh O’Reilly’s Centro de Arquitetura, which creates monumental spaces, while maintaining a highly controlled palette of materials.

Niamh O'Reilly

Niamh O’Reilly

There has been no lack of effort from the Mack students over the past year – this is evident on the walls – and the result is certainly consistent with Mackintosh’s maxim.
Graeme Nicholls is an architect with Gareth Hoskins Architects in Glasgow

Resume:Glasgow students have focused on effort and rigour over stylistic pandering

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I assume Mr Nicholls was once a student of the mac and unwilling to offend his old school for his critique bears no relationship to my own appreciation of the work on show nor Mackintosh's mere stylist comment. Sadly the school still leans heavily on a reputation gained twenty years ago for rigour and projects that meant something. Yes indeed the monastery was well presented but so what it was an exercise in self congratulatory design, as was the water museum ( a water museum for goodness sake) in Barcelona.

    Mackintosh would be laughing

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