In the heart of a converted Glasgow church, the reputation of one of Scotland’s most revered architects and designers is literally being rebuilt. This is Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the raw, as Kathleen Morgan discovers.
They began as some of Glasgow‘s most renowned tea-rooms. popularised by the Temperance Movement‘s crusade to sweep the city‘s streets clean of alcohol. Nearly a century later. Miss Cranston‘s Ingram Street Tea-rooms are in pieces. propped against the walls of a disused church. Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s creative dream is waiting to be put back together like one huge interior design jigsaw.
Slowly. that is just what is happening. After two decades of being shunted between storerooms around the city. the fragments of Mackintosh‘s tea-room dream are being painstakingly repaired. repainted and rebuilt by Glasgow Museums. Out of what at first glance look like piles of timber. the simple grace of Mackintosh‘s White Dining Room. focus of the Ingram Street tea- rooms. is being recreated. When complete. it will be the highlight of a ground-breaking exhibition on the great man‘s work to be staged in Glasgow‘s McLellan Galleries next year and toured to New York. Chicago and Los Angeles.
The ambitious £100,000 project could be the first step in an effort to recreate the labyrinth of six tea-rooms and numerous corridors and cloakrooms that made up Catherine Cranston's lngratn Street premises. in decades to come. we could see the the Oak Room. the Cloister Room. the China 'l‘ea— room. the Billiard Room and the ()val Room recreated. For now. the pressure is on to rebuild the central room. originally lined in aluminium leaf panels. but popularly known as the White Dining Room.
This is Mackintosh in the raw -- an amazing sight to behold for anyone familiar with the stark beauty of the architect‘s Hill House in Helensburgh. built itt [902. or the sombre profile of Glasgow School of Art. llis original tea-room wall panelling is gradually being returned to its former glory. lovingly repaired and attached to a wooden frame. Decorative gesso panels. one created by Mackintosh. the other by his wife Margaret Macdonald. are to hang on one wall. Behind their delicate facade are layers of rabbit skin glue and ground chalk. built up and inlaid with costume jewellery — proving there is more to Mackintosh than meets the eye.
Stripped of its superficial adormnents and coverings. the White Dining Room
90 The List 24 Mar-(i Apr l‘)‘)5
HTEA nouns nd
Restoring a legend: furniture conservator Andrew Stone sits before the Ingram Street Tea-room fireplace.
I exposes one aspect of the (ilasgow — born architect. buried beneath the hype
and the lucrative ‘.\lockintosh souvenir industry that has grown oy‘cl‘
This is Mackintosh in the raw — an amazing sight to behold for anyone familiar with the stark beauty of the architect’s Hill House in Helensburgh or the sombre profile of Glasgow School of Art.
i the last decade. Besides being a great architect. Mackintosh was an interior I designer. tnore interested in how the finished product looked than how it was put together. No one know s this better than Andrew
Stone. the tnan responsible for restoring
the tea-room. l’or tuorc than two years.
the (ilasgow .‘ylttseutns furniture conservator has sorted. repaired and
' begun rebuilding the White Dining
Room. aittting to transform dusty.
f blackened pieces of wood into what the world now recognises as art. Stone speaks affectionately. if realistically. of
an architect and designer ignored for decades and now reyered. llc know s the nuts and bolts that held
Mackintosh‘s tea-room together until it
was dismantled in the early 1070s. "l‘hcre was no construction to it.’ he says. sntiling wryly. ‘livery'thing w as
‘ just trailed on. The thing about
Mackintosh is the way something is made is less important than how it looks.‘ Stone explains he has had to
. remove the old nails itt order to put the
recently discovered in Glasgow School of Art.
tea-roottt back together. 'l'hose who installed it between 1900 and NH took little care mer how it was done -- there was little craftsmanship involved. Stone ltas no such luxury. He tnust rebuild the White Dining Room without ltartning the original material.
The room's original lead-coyercd fireplace stands against one wall. dull with age and neglect. It is a complete fluke that it is here at all until last year it was boarded in behind the wall of a basement studio in Glasgow School of An. (ilasgow' Museums was convinced it was somewhere in the school. but it was not until someone became suspicious and stuck their list through the plasterboard. that it was discovered.
The road to restoration has been a bumpy one. but the fact the lngram