GSA Students are Rediscovering Mackintosh

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‘Rediscovering Mackintosh’ is the first class to meet inside the Mackintosh building since the fire, with special permission from Kier Construction.

Last Thursday was a another milestone for the Mackintosh Restoration: the first class met inside the building since the time of the fire.

Since taking on the role of Mackintosh Research Fellow, I’ve done the occasional lecture here and there for our students, generally talking about the project. But before I was the ‘MRF’, I was a lecturer in history & context for FoCI and HAUS, teaching Mackintosh studies (amongst other things) across the school. And I must confess: though I love research, I miss teaching.

So I am absolutely delighted to be ‘back in the saddle’ offering a Mackintosh Restoration elective, ‘Rediscovering Mackintosh’, to our Fine Art and Design students this semester, and to Architecture students in semester 2. And while I certainly plan to incorporate what we have learned from the project into future teaching at GSA, this course provides a unique opportunity to witness and engage with a live conservation project on our very own world-class work of cultural heritage.

Throughout the project, we have strived to provide access where possible for students and staff, however, with this being a live project, this has not always been feasible. ‘Rediscovering Mackintosh’ is a landmark then for the school and our students: it is the first class to meet regularly in the building since the fire. It should be made clear, however, that we are doing so with the kind permission of Kier construction, both adhering to their Health & Safety guidelines (and our teaching team have all been inducted); and the students will actually only have one site visit to the construction areas. We are incredibly lucky that in the first term we are able to hold some of our classes in the old furniture gallery, which is currently part of the construction office.

Nonetheless, students will have unprecedented access to the restoration project, with a view to using it as a source of inspiration for their own creative practice. They will engage with the project through research and careful documentation of primary source material, critical analysis and, based on this, through proposing a creative response related to their own studios of practice. Because this is a context & critical studies elective, their assessments need to be written submissions, but I hope that they find the process gives them inspiration for their studio work as well. Finding unusual ways to engage with both historical material and the Mackintosh building is something I’ve had success with before, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes of the current enthusiastic group.

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Students from the 2012 ‘Artistic Dress’ FoCI elective perform a Tableau Vivant ‘Students in the Art School’ in the Mack Library.

The only downside is that due to the nature of the timeable and practical aspects of the course, we can only take a limited number of students for this elective. But I welcome any studio tutors to contact me if you’d like either a visit/talk from me, or advice on how we can make more research-teaching links with your curriculum. I do hope we will find more ways to incorporate Mackintosh, in history, philosophy and spirit, into our curriculum well into the future.

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