We are honoured to have been part of a group with Simpson and Brown Architects reviewing the vast oeuvre of Charles Rennie Mackintosh projects and their current state of repair and conservation. The remarkable work in creating the Mackintosh Architecture web resource has provided an extensive and robust foundation of information on built and unbuilt projects.
What was less well understood was the current state of many of these properties. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society have taken the lead with funding support from The Monument Trust and support in kind from Historic Environment Scotland, The Hunterian (University of Glasgow) and Roger Billcliffe, with his expertise on Mackintosh interiors and furniture.
The Mackintosh Architecture website catalogues a remarkable number of projects and priority for survey was determined with reference to the coding system embeded within that catalogue for over forty key projects. This included obvious examples such as The Hill House and Scotland Street School but also some relatively unknown built projects such as an extension to 12 Clairmont Gardens, Glasgow and the Alexander McCall monument in Glasgow Necropolis.
The CRM Building Surveys project is a two stage process, the first of which has been completed. The surveys generally focused on the external building envelope looking at roofs and chimney, gutters and downpipes, external walls, doors and windows to determine repair and conservation works required on a prioritised basis with the criteria being immediate, urgent, necessary and desirable. However, not all of the projects are buildings so there was an assessment of whether interiors were at risk and a survey of several gravestones designed by Mackintosh was also included. The second stage will focus on those projects where relatively urgent action is required to ensure long term integrity and these will be the subject of more detailed surveys and the preparation of budget costs, the intention being that owners are informed and encouraged to continue to work to ensure that the Mackintosh heritage is preserved.
Some highlights are less well-known organ screen and furniture in Bridge of Allan Parish Church which is remarkable in condition, the challenge here being to understand what is Mackintosh and what is later work carefully undertaken in the sprit of the master. In contrast, a basement tea room for Miss Cranston (where Mackintosh designed furniture and light fittings for a George Walton interior) at 106-114 Argyle Street was a case of determining whether or not there were any remnants of that design. And some surprises - the Fritz Waernorfer House and remarkable Music Salon and miniature extension in Vienna, sadly stripped out early in the 20th century and now in various galleries and private collections around Europe, but still extant as a rendered extension with similar detailing and harling to The Hill House and The Glasgow School of Art.
There are some buildings which are under real threat from water ingress, serious rot and other issues and these will be a focus during the second phase of the project. Happily, the extremes of poor condition are relatively few but what the surveys also seek to do is to flag up what might be called pre-emptive action which is why roofs and downpipes sit high on the list of priorities in all the surveys, the key question being whether the rooms below are under threat, not from internal use but from external factors we know all about in Scotland - the weather.