House for an Art Lover
History and museums
The House for an Art Lover is a building constructed in 1989-96, based on a design of 1901 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh with his wife, Margaret MacDonald. The building is situated in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland. The idea to actually construct the house from the Mackintoshs' designs came from Graham Roxburgh, a civil engineer in Glasgow who had done refurbishment work on the Mackintosh interiors in Craigie Hall. The house is a venue for art exhibitions and other events, as well as being itself a visitor attraction.
The house was originally designed for an competition for an architectural design for a "Haus eines Kunstfreundes" (Art Lover's House), set by the German design magazine Zeitschrift für Innendekoration. Despite disqualification due to late entry, the portfolio was awarded a prize for its "pronounced personal quality, novel and austere form and the uniform configuration of interior and exterior".
Construction began in 1989 and the house was finally opened to the public in 1996. When a recession occurred in the early 1990s, construction had to stop. In 1994, the Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) revived the project so that the interior rooms and landscape could be completed. Mackintosh's original designs were interpreted and realised by John Kane and Graeme Robertson (up to 1990) under Andy MacMillan, with contributions by many contemporary artists. Original portfolio designs are displayed in each room to allow comparisons.
The House for an Art Lover is owned by a charitable company of the same name "whose primary purpose is the stimulation of public interest in Art, Design & Architecture. Its remit includes the development of visual art exhibitions by some of Scotland's leading artists and designers in the Cafe Gallery with a related, gallery education programme for children and adults." The house also includes shops and a cafe, and functions as a venue that is hired for conferences and other types of events.
As with all of Mackintosh's works, the House is designed to be viewed as a whole. His work incorporated multiple styles and is a compilation of opposites. Inside the house traditional Victorian designs are juxtaposed with modern concepts, and displays the blending of masculine and feminine, natural forms with abstract thought, or simple concepts with complex designs. Mackintosh emphasized a need for architects and designers to be given greater freedom when expressing their ideas; and, this ability to create an independent design is visible in the structure and layout of the House for an Art Lover.
While the House certainly does reflect the Mackintosh style, the building is a construction based on drafts produced in 1901. It is not uncommon for architects and designers to be revising and redesigning their work until the last minute. When Mackintosh worked on the GSA, the construction was divided into two parts. From 1897 to 1899, the funding was available to complete the central and eastern sections of the building. It was not until 1907 that there was funding to complete the western wing. During the period of waiting, Mackintosh continually revised his designs for the building. As a result, the western wing is distinctly different from those completed in 1899, having a decidedly 20th century appearance. Given his history of altering his designs during construction, it is entirely possible that Mackintosh would have made numerous changes to his drafts during the construction of the House for an Art Lover. It is for this reason that buildings constructed posthumously are often a point of contention. Many feel that there is not enough information in the designs to construct a building that reflects the architect’s intent.
With this under consideration, the current House must be viewed as an interpretation of the Mackintoshes’ original designs. The Mackintoshes were designing a residential house. The current House was constructed with commercial purposes in mind. The House was built to highlight the Bellahouston Art Park, and it is currently used to house banquets, hold conferences, and exhibit artwork. Inside there is a cafe and gift shop. Clearly with the change of intent came a change of structure. Mackintosh would not have been designing for the inclusion of a cafe and gallery, so the appearance would have been different. The House is still authentic in that the original designs were used, but many in the arts community want it made clear that the house itself is not an original Mackintosh.
Despite these differences, the House is still representative of the Mackintoshes, and the organisation running the facilities wishes to promote the Mackintoshes’ work. Today, the House for an Art Lover encourages interest in art, design, and architecture. Visual art exhibitions are held in the gallery, as well as workshops and artist talks. It is part of the mission of the House to be a centre for the visual arts, both nationally and internationally. Interestingly, it was mentioned previously that the Glasgow City Council and the GSA revived the project to build the House in 1994. Mackintosh had attended the GSA, and as mentioned, designed the school’s current accommodations. The GSA and House for an Art Lover maintain a strong relationship, which helps promote the House and its reputation as a cultural asset to visual arts.