ExhibReview – Mackintosh Architecture – The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, London

The Mackintosh Architecture exhibition at RIBA in London has showcased the work of Scottish architect and arguably the United Kingdom’s most celebrated Art Nouveau exemplary, Charles Rennie Mackintosh through his career journey and its wider historical context.

Drawing of Scotland Street School, Glasgow by Charles Rennie Mackintosh at The Architecture Gallery, RIBA

This is not a straightforward analysis of Mackintosh’s work but the story of Mackintosh’s career placed in a wider context of those around him and his life. The emphasis of presenting Mackintosh in a wider historical context is no clearer shown than on entry to the exhibition. Here there is a wall filled with two parallel timelines, one showing wider historical events and another showing those crucial events in Mackintosh’s career. The exhibition continues into a space focused on his beginnings in architecture, at the office of Honeyman & Keppie and highlights the culture of the office as well as examining drawings to provide an insight into the different styles of those around hi and where Mackintosh’s distinctive style has its foundations. Here the exhibition also focuses on his work for the Glasgow School Board  and competition entries for wider civic projects, some which were successful and some which were never built.

No Mackintosh exhibition would be complete without some attention to the Glasgow School of Art, arguably his finest achievement of which restoration is currently underway following a devastating fire in 2014. RIBA have given this project it’s rightful attention but with modesty. It has its own dedicated corner in the gallery and the is a cross-sectional model of the Western Tower featuring the famous library which is beautifully backlit with blue light.

Sectional model of the Library in the Western Tower, Glasgow School of Art at The Architecture Gallery, RIBA

This exhibition stated in its introduction that there would be a focus on some of Mackintosh’s domestic project and the remaining half of the exhibition focuses on these. RIBA here have used a variety of mediums to showcase this work, including original drawings, models as well as video tours of those properties that were built via iPads. These video tours in particular provide real engagement for the visitor as you get to see his projects from a multitude of different angles in their built environment. The variety of mediums used to display his work means there is something for most visitors to enjoy. The three models on designs for the Gatehouse at Auchenbothie are charming.  Having the three proposals for the same project next to each other is an excellent way of highlighting those distinctive factors of Mackintosh’s style. For example, m his use of subtle curves, like in one of the Gatehouse proposals where he has intricately wrapped the building into the curved property wall into the staircase turret.

Model Proposals for the Gate Lodge at Auchenbothie at The Architecture Gallery, RIBA

Other highlights include the programmes he designed for concerts which showing his move away from architecture in his later career as well as the interiors for the artists house in France.

In the studio space beside the gallery, there are three contemporary works under the theme Beyond Mackintosh celebrating the vibrant art community in Glasgow. Katy Dove’s film, Meaning in Action, 2013, uses kaleidescopic visuals with a dissonant musical soundtrack.

Mackintosh Architecture is at the Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London until 23rd May and is free entry.


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