Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

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

21 July 2011

Somebody's Watching Me: Glasgow School of Art

The Glasgow School of Art (designed by Makintosh) is not your average museum, because while it displays the art of Macintosh on the lower level, the building is still a functioning school. The scratches and carving in the dark wood represent the years of ware, but the continuing presence of students. The building’s details make it one of the most remarkable, especially the theme of nature and growth (a theme that works nicely with a school). Each detail is handmade and unique. For example, in the library, not all the table legs have the same leaf pattern. This attention to detail continues throughout the building. Further, the building is made for art students, a lifestyle Macintosh knew well of. He utilized natural light in the studios. He created gridded windows overlooking the city, so students had points of reference when they painted Glasgow.

While the building was designed with students in mind, it’s most interesting features are those for the administrative and teacher audience (cue: Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”). In the doors of administrative office is the window design of watchful eyes. All the clocks (although no longer use) are controlled by a master clock in the administrative office. The lecture hall has uncomfortable chairs so that students sit up straight and alert during class. Finally, an additional table divider was added in the library when students were using the large central table as an opportunity for conversation. These features are quite industrial for me in that they mirror the workings of a factory structure rather than the Fame-esque pedagogy I had expected for an art school.

The school has taken a post-industrial twist in that it now caters to a new audience: tourists. Rick Steves recommended, the building leads tours, houses a museum-like collection of Macintosh furniture, and sells souvenirs and art made by the school’s graduates. This new use of space, I believe, would make the administrators of the past turn in their graves. The once glaring eyes of the administrators are now Macintosh watching over the students. And the students--and the passionate student tour guide can back this up--take pride in studying in and sharing their building with others.

So this is an interesting space with two types of education going on within it. The fact that the tour was ran by a current student made me feel as if I was welcomed into their art school, rather than a museum. By far, it was my favorite place in Scotland.

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