Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.
Image by Cameron Lyall, GNU license Wikimedia

15 July 2011

Comparing Pedagogical Spaces: Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow Riverside Museum

For a class day trip we went to two locations in Glasgow. The first we visited was the Glasgow School of Art designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Instead of a generic building for schooling this space was designed with the art students in mind. Mackintosh was also an art student as well as an architect and draftsman. He knew what art students require to be creative and work. The space he designed was specifically tailored to cater to student’s needs.

Mackintosh’s designs included many geometric and organic designs. On the outside of his building there are wrought iron ‘flowers’, organic metal shapes in various stages of growth. His lamps outside the building have very geometric dimensions. Walking through the building I was constantly reminded of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style homes and buildings. Our guide mentioned that comparisons between the two architects are often drawn, but it is unclear whether or not they were aware of each other’s work.

The learning in this space is very guided and structured. I would love to be able to wander around and spend time in the library, but unlike a museum or the Robie House, this building is still a functional structure. The GSoA still has students who work in that space. While we were there an art show was being put together for that evening. Our access was restricted and at the mercy of the guide. We were able to ask questions and we did see the significant features of the building.

The second space we visited was the Riverside Museum, the transportation museum. The atmosphere at the GSoA was somber, contemplative, scholastic, etc. It is meant for an audience of people interested in that structure specifically, or that architecture style, that period, or history in Glasgow. There is not a great deal for children under twelve as evidenced by the gift ship (which was full of artistic pieces, posters, pencils, and the like, but no children’s books or toys).

In contrast, the audience at the Riverside was much, much younger. There were hordes of small children and their tired looking parents running through the exhibits. The gift shop had models of trains, planes, automobiles, and space shuttles. Many of the displays were interactive, such as the display by the motorcycles. The screens would ask you to choose the motorcycle that best fit a description, such as “which motorcycle would go fastest?” The information displays, the labels for exhibits, are also at child height. The parents have to lean down to read, but the children can see everything quite comfortably.

A couple members of our group and I ended up talking to an attendant about the museum. Since the museum is free it brings in a lot of people. The museum is situated along the Firth of Clyde. The museum brings people back to the river. It was going to be an anchor for the region until the recession hit. It is sustained by the city because it is a draw to the area, at least according to the attendant.

Each space is meant to teach the audience. The target audiences are very different as well as what is being taught. Each space has its own meaning and uses. While I was not amazingly fond of the Riverside museum, the content was well designed and geared toward its audience.

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