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Mackintosh Architecture - Context, Making and Meaning

Many people are familiar with the name of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Scottish architect and designer of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. Yet surprisingly, despite his international recognition and the extensive literature devoted to his work, his work as an architect is conspicuously under-researched. Professor Pamela Robertson’s AHRC-funded project, ‘Mackintosh Architecture – Context, Making and Meaning’, aims to rectify that, and to transform research into Mackintosh’s architecture.

Funded under the AHRC’s Research Grants scheme, the project is being undertaken by the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery in partnership with Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Using a combination of archival research and building survey and analysis, 'Mackintosh Architecture' will provide for the first time a comprehensive evaluation of Mackintosh’s achievements as an architect.

Mackintosh’s work is located at a pivotal point between the Victorian age and the Modern Movement, at an important period in the emergence of Glasgow as one of Britain's most important Victorian cities. Robertson’s project will generate the first detailed catalogues of his architectural projects and his architectural designs, together with transcriptions from the job-books of the practice, “Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh”, and other archival sources. Illustrations of over a thousand drawings, and all five surviving job books and the office cash book will be included on the project website. The project will identify and research the wider networks of clients, contractors and suppliers, and define their contributions. Surveys by Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission will identify construction methods, materials, and technology used.

“The funding for this project will allow us to refocus on Mackintosh’s core activity as an architect,” says Robertson. “It will give us a better understanding of these landmark buildings, their patrons and makers, success and influence.”

Innovative in many ways, the project will culminate in a richly-illustrated, free-access website to be launched in the summer of 2014. The results of the research will be analysed in a series of specialist, online texts and an exhibition and conference organised by the Hunterian, providing access to the information to a wide audience. The exhibition, to be held in the summer of 2014 at The Hunterian to mark the launch of the website, will reflect the project themes of context, making and meaning, with an emphasis on Mackintosh’s domestic designs.

The work will establish a valuable foundation for further evaluation of Mackintosh in the context of his British and international peer group. It will also support future studies in architectural and social history, including Glasgow's wider architectural history, the emergence of major Victorian cities in Britain, and the history of Victorian building trades. The research process itself will provide a methodology for future evaluations of the oeuvre of individual architects, with the website providing a model for the presentation of an individual architect's output.

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