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Was Charles Rennie Mackintosh a pioneer of modern architecture?

Part 1 Dissertation 2002
Suzanne Fowler
Birmingham City University | UK
The object of this study is to establish whether or not Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a pioneer of Modern Architecture. The parameters used are headed Revival, Reaction and Recognition.

'Revival' covers influences such as the Arts and Crafts Movement, the resurgence of Gothic, Renaissance and Classical styles, and the response by individuals, such as William Richard Lethaby, to the increased use of the machine and decrease in craft skills in the work place. In this context, Glasgow, Mackintosh's birthplace, was however, a city set in an architectural 'status quo', ironically due to the influence of Alexander Thomson.

'Reaction' explores links with the changes in design due to the Industrial Revolution, through examples of work by Frank Lloyd Wright and Antoni Gaudi. Wright is examined with regard to Arts and Crafts influence and his use of new technology in design. Gaudi is used to establish to what extent Mackintosh relied on his own background for inspiration in design and whether Mackintosh’s work was recognised during his time, unlike Gaudi. The extent to which Mackintosh influenced design at an international level in Europe, is also discussed.

Questions raised: Was Mackintosh merely under influence of the movement, rather than leading or inspiring, as a pioneer; also to what extent have influences such as Celtic tradition and Scottish vernacular architecture affected his designs.

Finally, 'Recognition' provides an arena to look at Mackintosh in an international context, regarding his study at Glasgow School of Art, competition entries with the Glasgow Four, his life as it evolved, and the war years (1914-18); and how he has been perceived.

The conclusion determines Charles Rennie Mackintosh as a pioneer of Modern Architecture, recognised internationally for his efforts during his lifetime, possibly hindered by attitudes at home due to the Arts and Crafts movement. Since his death, Mackintosh has achieved greater recognition nationally for his architecture, with the realisation of several competition designs. Thus, more so now than during his lifetime he is considered a pioneer in terms of being an inspiration to others, particularly in Scotland where he established a legacy of Modern Architecture.

Suzanne Fowler

Here in Birmingham the School asks students on the undergraduate B.A.(Honours) Architecture degree course (Part One recognised) to carry out a written research exercise known as the 'Special Study' to demonstrate their ability to resaerch a given specific premise through written work, to express themselves appropriately and adequately and in sound English. This dissertation study subject, chosen by the student, should be Architecturally related.
Suzanne's dissertation shows a diligence of enquiry and research worthy of more advanced study. She has convincingly demonstrated the ability to explore a particular philosophical thesis in a thorough and conscientious manner, and has prepared the presentation of her work in a suitable and sympathetic format.
While perhaps there will be more erudite dissertation works forthcoming from the later stages of an architectural education, I consider that this student has fulfilled the requirements of a Third Year 'special study' in excellent manner and stands as one of the best examples at this level that we have had over recent years. It is an example that I will be happy to set as a standard to be approached for subsequent years, and I look forward to the time when Suzanne carries out her more advanced part II Dissertation in the Postgraduate Diploma course in a year or so.

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