Dubai Detour: Glasgow, Scotland and Charles Rennie Macintosh

Scotland’s train system is amazing!  Easy, comfortable, fast and convenient.  We took the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow for about fifteen dollars a ticket, arriving within 40 minutes.  I had ordered the tickets online before we came to Scotland; then when you get to the train station, you can print out all tickets you ordered online in one fell swoop.  It is not a huge deal to just buy them at the station when you get there, but they are cheaper if you order ahead and you are assured a seat.  Voila – ten minutes in the station to print out tickets and board, then forty minutes later we were in Glasgow.  We could not help but wish the U.S. had such an easy, inexpensive, and fast mass transit solution.

With only a short time in Glasgow, we decided to take a quick bus tour of the city, and got off at the Glasgow School of Art, which is the famed architect Charles Rennie Macintosh’s masterpiece.  One of the many things I loved learning about Macintosh was how much he loved his wife and credited her with much of his success:

“My wife is the genius – I merely have talent.”

Charles Rennie Macintosh

(My husband Jimmy got quite tired of hearing me repeat this quote, I am afraid).  While now considered Scotland’s most famous architect, Mackintosh was not appreciated much during his lifetime, and in fact at age 47 he had given up on architecture entirely and spent most of his time on his other art, particularly watercolor.

While in Glasgow, looking at the buildings he designed, his interiors, and his furniture, I thought that his work looked a lot like that of Frank Lloyd Wright.  They created at the same time, but no one could say whether or not they were influenced by each other or even knew of each other’s work.  Macintosh was, however, definitely influenced by Japanese art and icons – Glasgow was a huge shipbuilding center and many Japanese came to the city to learn the trade.   The minimalist tendencies and simplicity of form in Macintosh’s work in no small part came from this Japanese influence.

When you are in Scotland, definitely take some time in Glasgow – we spent only half a day on our way from Edinburgh to the Isle of Mull, but it was a fruitful and fascinating few hours.   Other things to see in Glasgow (other than Macintosh’s work)- the quirky tradition of the traffic cone on the Duke of Wellington Statue outside the Museum of Modern Art (there is even a Facebook Group called “Keep the Cone”, formed when there was talk of how to stop the cones from appearing on the statue); the path along the River Clyde (and the cool Clyde Auditorium, nicknamed the “Armadillo”, for obvious reasons, although it was designed to look like interlocking ship hulls, not the nocturnal creature); the Kelvingrove Art Museum, the Riverside Museum designed by Zaha Hadid (which looks like an EKG reading to me), and the many street murals throughout Glasgow.

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