Book Review: Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh by Alan Crawford
Thames & Hudson, 1995
Paperback, 216 pages

In his World of Art contribution, Crawford attempts to elucidate three problems in his examination of the Scottish architect: the lack of knowledge about the architect's life, the distortion of facts about the architect (what Crawford calls the Mackintosh Myth), and his collaboration with his wife Margaret Macdonald. The first and last seem the least problematic, the architect's personal life taking a backseat to his body of work in the case of the first, and the author crediting the mainly interior projects in the first decade of the 20th century to the husband and wife team, arguably the height of Mackintosh's career. But dealing with the Mackintosh Myth, Crawford treats the architect in a much more down-to-earth, realistic manner over the typical one that characterizes the architect as a misunderstood genius with little recognition at home during his lifetime. Both while and after reading the book, this approach gave me the impression that Mackintosh's design skills (over the oft-used term genius) were never realized to their full potential. But with at least three designs (his masterpiece the Glasgow School of Art, the Cranston Tea Rooms, and the Hill House) still well known and appreciated almost a century later, his reputation as a uniquely skilled architect is fitting, as any architect would love to have at least one design with the longevity of one of Mackintosh's.