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'Art lover’s lhouse ?
Jane Humphries discovers the genuine Mackintosh
"l‘he worst offender is the Sauchiehall Centre. I think that's the most appalling piece of tat.‘ exasperates Kevan Shaw. an independent lighting designer and Mackintosh enthusiast. "I’he thing that really grates about it is that the street furniture is so crassly Mackintosh-esque it's not true. yet only one hundred yards away there stands a very good example of Mackintosh (the Willow Tea Rooms).‘
Experts in Mackintosh architecture and design may nod in : agreement with this statement on the overt plagiarism that has manifested itselfduring this year ofculture. Promoted as the icon of the Glasgow Style. Mackintosh. in 1990. has been
internationally renowned as a cultural hero to a wider public audience than ever before. Whether he would have approved of the commercial memorabilia manufactured in his name is debaudﬂe.
From the instantly recognisable lettering on all the 1990 publicity. to the cheap ‘n‘ nasty interior reproductions in fast food restaurants. one thing is certain. that despite the overkill and bastardization. Mackintosh design has become as much of a Glasgow institution as Celtic and Rangers.
()ne project which maybe acclaimed and appreciated by the lay public and purist alike. as a true representation and just tribute to the genius ofMackintosh. is the construction of'l‘he Art Lover's House in Bellahouston Park.
Almost a century ago Mackintosh submitted a series of fourteen design drawings for Zeitschriﬂ Fur [miendekoraiion. an interior design magazine published in Darmstadt. West Germany. to create a house for an art lover. Ninety years on. a Glasgow consulting engineer. Graham Roxburgh. who has previously been involved with the restoration of Craigie Hall (home of examples ofearly Mackintosh such as the incredible ()rgan Casein the Music Room) took on board the
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Considerable task of constructing the aesthetic dwelling Mackintosh had imagined.
l.ike (‘raigie l lall. the building is intended to be not only a significant historical architectural site on view to the public but also a commercial office site. based on the American principle of ‘shared heritage.’ Work started on the building in 198‘) and the exterior shell is now complete. The interior ofthe four main rooms — the entrance hall. dining room. drawing. music room and oval room — should be open to the public in early 1991 . The interior fittings and furniture. incorporating stained glass. gesso panels. carpet designs and wall hangings have been made by local craft workers. the intention being to keep to the traditional methods. materials and colourings Mackintosh himself would have utilised. 'l‘he ambitious nature is reflected in the cost factor which tops the two million mark. To create an authentic Mackintosh space. great attention to detail has been paid to all stages of production.
Kevan Shaw. who has been responsible for coordinating the light fittings. conducted extensive research to produce as closely as possible Mackintosh's desired designs. This has resulted in a special lightbulb that generates an
3 impression ofgaslight. 'l’he problems
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encountered in adapting the original drawings to contemporary needs and restrictions are ones he thinks would have given Mackintosh headaches! ‘All the designers involved in this project have put their heads against the wall in terms ofcriticism. A great deal of thought. love and care has been taken to keep to Mackintosh's ideas. but concessions have been made due to fire regulations etc. For example. in some areas concrete has been substituted for timber. The closest things to pastiche are the Exit signs.‘
Designers are a peculiar breed. Precious to detail. the purity of whether The Art Lover‘s House is a satisfactory testament to Mackintosh‘s design concepts will no doubt fuel discussion into the next decade. But at least here is a monument of civic pride for the people of Glasgow. which will remain after the buzz of 1990 fades. Perhaps it would be an appropriate gesture to end this year with a competition open to young Scottish designers and architects to originate plans for a similar project to evolve in the next century.
A preview e.r/zihilimz uj'eompleied interiors of The A r! [.0 i'er's Home is a! ( 'ruigie Hall. () Rowan Road. Glasgow, ()4! 4276884. ()pen Sat and Sun 10am—5pm. [I (50p);
.S‘iruI/zelvde pens [artery/rec ofeharge.
The List [) — 32 November 1990 77