GSA from the Northwest on Renfrew street. This was a extremely difficult site plan for Mackintosh and he handled it very well. The school is situated on the block between Scott street on the west and Dalhousie on the east. Both of these streets have very steep grades which lead down into the city center.
In this image one can gain an appreciation of the severe grade that Mackintosh had to deal with in the design of the School. This western section of GSA (phase 2) was finished in 1910 and housed the now very famous library.
The school's library oriel windows soar uninterrupted for three floors providing quite a spectacular view from the library's interior. Wrought iron ornament is used throughout the school and especially as accents in the elevations. This part of the building was redesigned by Mackintosh in the years between the construction of the two phases.
To break up the repetitive grid of the window framing, Mackintosh employed decorative brackets that were also functional. The bottom part of the bracket would project from just beneath the window at a 90 degree angle. From this bracket a lovely curved element rose up and then attached to the lower part of the window frame. This helped provide support to the very large windows and also provided support for window washer's planks.
It is quite possible that the grand oriel windows were inspired by his work on Scotland Street School of 1906 which featured soaring windows in the two towers. Mackintosh's decorative handling of the west entrance anticipates the geometry of Art Deco.
The second floor atrium served as the main exhibition space for the school. It was an architectual trendsetter with its timber trusses and large skylight. Mackintosh had used a similar atrium in his little appreciated Martyr's School in 1895. Mackintosh was certainly familiar with Japanese architecture and their timberframing techniques and this atrium owes a debt of gratitude to that history.
Alan Crawford in his book "Charles Rennie Macintosh" describes the library as..."a grove of trees, a place between darkness and light, the playful subdivision of space, construction that is not construction at all. This is not the last, but is certainly the greatest of Mackintosh's timber fantasies, and his fullest tribute to traditional Japanese architecture."
Not obvious in any photograph is the relative intimacy of the room. It is just 36 square feet. The soaring ceiling height, the oriel windows and the set back balcony all combine to give the "forest" a generous feeling of spaciousness.
This room was originally the board room. It was at some point renamed the Mackintosh room and is now the main meeting room for the school's administration and faculty. As a vistor to the Glasgow School of Art one cannot help but realize that the school is a living museum. For example, in this room alone there are almost priceless original pieces of furniture and light fixtures. As the school has outgrown the original building it has expanded into new facilities across the street.