In May last year the Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art suffered a terrible fire, which I'm sure you know about, and at the time I blogged about the devastating consequences and emotions. Although much of the building, incredibly, survived, the library was totally destroyed. A few months after the fire, I began to think about how we were hearing about what an incredible space had been lost, but for many people they had never had the chance to see it; in my opinion, a model of it would be the ideal way to show visitors and students what the library had been like.
I approached the GSA, and they agreed, commissioning me to produce a model for use as part of the tour while the Mackintosh building is closed to visitors. The pictures in this post are of the finished model, which I installed last week in the Reid building. It is now part of the GSA tour, taking in the 'Windows on Mackintosh' display, the Mackintosh furniture gallery, and the Reid building (which was opened last year, housing the design departments of the art school).
I proposed the model as I felt it was important for people to see this celebrated space, although I had only been in the library a couple of times, very briefly, during my time at the art school (the Mackintosh library held mainly archives, there is a separate, much larger library which is the main resource space for students). I knew that my first step with making the model was extensive research, however, I didn't expect to learn so much myself from the process. It has really been a privilege getting to see the structure and details of the library in such an intimate way.
It was amazing to see that the various components of the structure held together so easily, they locked in place without the need for glue (though I did decide a bit of glue was a good idea..!). Many of the structural components (the columns, the beams, the floor) are thin, and don't seem that they would hold any amount of weight, but together they create a strong, balanced structure. There is also a beautiful symmetry to the library, the lines flowing top to bottom, front to back, left to right; the beams on the ceiling as a framework from which the layout is guided.
I also got to study the details of the space. Each of the decorative panels hanging from the balcony was carved with a different pattern, and I made sure to copy this as accurately as possible. This is one of my favourite parts of the model. As with many details, the light-shades were designed by Mackintosh specifically for the library, and these were an enjoyable challenge. I made them by designing a 2-part flat net, which was acid-etched in brass, which I then folded together. They were only around 15mm tall, yet had to accommodate a LED. Roy Shearer wired up the lights and did a great job getting the lights to illuminate the model, despite the restrictions of the space and scale.
At a later stage, I plan on doing a blog post on the making of the model, as there was lots of interesting and challenging parts, and it's cool to see the model go from being a couple of bits of timber and plastic to the finished thing.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy seeing the photos of the finished model (or go and see the actual model!) - I loved making it, its been such a joy. I am so thankful to the art school for sharing my vision for this model (and I think they like it too).