Glasgow continued

“I first wrote occasional pieces on Mackintosh 40 years ago, initially when his little Martyrs’ School was threatened with demolition for city-centre motorway, when Thomas Howarth was republishing his early biography, and as Mackintosh’s own house was being strangely reconstructed one street away from its original site. Having written a book on architectural drawing, I was commissioned to produce one on Mackintosh’s drawings, but the publishing house was bought out and the project vanished.


By 1990 I was convinced there was space for a big pictorial book to introduce Alexander Thomson, Glasgow’s greatest architect, to a wider public. The publisher Colin Baxter promised he would do that if, first, I agreed to write on Mackintosh for him.
(Further Mackintosh Bibliography) My ‘pocket guide’ proved valuable and in print continuously for over a dozen year. My big book on Mackintosh, produced with Colin’s photography for Lomond, attempted something new: to see Mackintosh’s life as a whole and try to form some coherent sense from that. From that work, and further study of Aspergers Syndrome and the psychology of perception, I have developed a thesis relating Mackintosh’s personality and abilities to his design and, particularly, painting output. ‘Who was C R Mackintosh?’ was given as the annual lecture to the James MacLaren Society, Fortingall, Perthshire, May, 2009 and then at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society headquarters in November. Further refined, it was delivered to The Regency Society of Brighton and Hove and then CRM Society in London and later to the CRM Society in Bath, October and to the CRM Society, York, November 2010.

A study of Mackintosh as Interior Architect was commissioned by Colin Baxter, but put to one side. I am keen to resurrect this project which, I hope, will be an original study. The subject does not seem to have been looked at as a whole, and my plan grows from enthusiastic responses to my lecture (first given at the invitation of 20th Century Society) on the subject. Mackintosh’s work of all other sorts – from flower drawings to furniture, from French paintings to the architecture generally, are now exhaustively published. His works in interior architecture are not; and they remain, I argue, his most original contribution.

Anyway, I did my part of the ‘if-Mackintosh-then-Thomson’ bargain, and enjoyed it. But the publisher didn’t reciprocate. Happily, the energies of Gavin Stamp arrived in Glasgow, and Thomson found well-deserved spotlights.

My graduate thesis (1970) had been the first study (as far as I am aware) of this major 19th Century architect’s intentions and work. (McFadzean’s PhD on Thomson was later completed and then soon published). Early in the 1980s my renewed work on Thomson grew from invitations to lecture in Glasgow at the Architectural Assdociation in London, and resulted in various texts. Here is one essay about his relation to the city, and here I list my other writing about him.

My initial writing on Glasgow was in angry response to the massive-scale redevelopment which destroyed so much of the city during my student days. In 1972 I founded MOTORWAY MOVEMENT with my brother Charles, as a locally-based protest movement against the construction of more central urban motorway in Glasgow, and the unbalanced concern for private motorists at the expense not only of the Glaswegian environment but also of the vast majority of their fellow citizens. It raised much local, national and international support; 6000 signatures of protest were quickly assembled, packed local meetings were held, etc. The motorway was stopped.

I wrote on the subject in all the technical press, The Times, Private Eye, local papers and amenity society magazines. In 1973, I discussed Glasgow’s motorways in a Radio 4 programme on community action and later took part in a two-sided 30-minute debate on the question of inner city motorways on Scottish Television (STV).

The other participant, a pro-road professor of civil engineering, took over from Sir Colin Buchanan who withdrew at the last minute.

Later my writing on Glasgow widened and deepened, centering on a long study, ‘Lights and Shadows’, written in response to a request for an essay on the city’s ‘personality.’”

Further Glasgow Bibliography