The history of the Mackintosh building >

While the building of The Glasgow School of Art is rightly associated with the innovative work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh during the late 1890s, early 1900s, the origins of the School predate this by some 50 years.

The School was originally founded in January 1845 as Glasgow's Government School of Design. Forty years later in 1885 Francis Newbery became headmaster and under his energetic direction the Glasgow School of Art and Haldane Academy (as it was then known) expanded so considerably that a new larger building was required.

In 1896 an architectural competition took place for the building of a new Glasgow School of Art on a site offered to the School's directors by the Bellahouston trustees. Working to a budget of just £14,000, the Glasgow firm of Honeyman and Keppie submitted a design from the hand of one of their junior draughtsmen, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.Sympathetic to Mackintosh's intentions, the design was praised by Newbery and after being independently assessed by the educational authorities in London, was finally accepted.

It was clear, however, that there were insufficient funds available to complete the building as both Newbery and more importantly as Mackintosh had intended it. Somewhat reluctantly it was decided that work should proceed on the central and eastern half of the building only and that construction of the west wing would be entirely dependent on securing additional funds. Building work commenced in 1897 and by December 1899 the first phase of the School had been completed including the Museum, the Headmaster's Room and Board Room.

It took Newbery and School's Board of Governors a further eight years to secure the financial means to complete Mackintosh's scheme. In the meantime, Mackintosh was invited back by the School to rework his original drawings and a series of alterations and extensions were made including the provision of a new second floor of studios and additional workshops accommodated into a sub-basement floor.

Work started on the second half of the building in 1907 and by December 1909 it had been completed. In total contrast to the earlier austere facades to the south and east, the west wing with its dramatic design and dominating windows heralded the birth of a new style in 20th century European architecture. Internally the most dramatic of interiors was reserved for the Library with its decorated balcony and central cluster of electric lights.

A century on, Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art remains a functional working building as he always intended it to be. Significantly, the issue now facing the School is that aside from its educational role, the Mackintosh building is increasingly seen as a important architectural monument in its own right and is a listed building protected by statute.Also, with an ever-increasing interest being shown in the work of Mackintosh himself and Glasgow in general, the building has become a favoured destination for a growing number of cultural tourists, so much so, that in excess of 20,000 visitors a year are accommodated on regular guided tours.

Balancing the needs of a working art school, a heritage building and a tourist attraction all under the one roof remains far from easy but the School has a duty to all three. It remains committed to preserving the original fabric of the building and works closely with Historic Scotland, the government agency charged with overseeing the protection of Scotland's built heritage. It continues to recognise the important role that the School now has in the important cultural-tourism sector. Above all, the Mackintosh Building continues to service the needs of its students and staff and as it enters the 21st century, it is surely something that Mackintosh himself would have wished.