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Pioneering Architect's Buildings Are Threatened

CHARLES RENNIE MACKINTOSH (1868-1928) has a place firmly fixed in the history of architecture. He was a pioneer of modernism with a considered respect for the past, and an international innovator with an appreciation of the native and the provincial. His architecture mixed spareness and decorativeness, and offered a way out of the curvilinear designs of ``Art Nouveau'' at the turn of the century. He was an artist-architect, some say a genius. His reputation rests on a very few existing buildings: Glasgow School of Art, Queens Cross Church, Scotland Street School, and two private houses, ``Windyhill'' in Kilmacolm, and ``The Hill House'' in Helensburgh (See picture).

There are other splendid glimpses of his vision too: restored rooms from one of his ``Tea Rooms'' on Sauchiehall Street; rooms from his own Glasgow house; and from a later house built in Northampton, sensitively recreated at Glasgow University's Hunterian Art Gallery; interior decoration at Craigie Hall, a predominantly non-Mackintosh Victorian house rescued 10 years ago and turned into offices by Graham Roxburgh. On that success, perhaps, was based Roxburgh's far more ambitious project (See adjoi ning story).

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While this extravagant project has been given much publicity, work has been very quietly carried forward to refurbish Scotland Street School, now opened as a museum. The Hill House, in the care of the National Trust, has undergone restoration. When it reopened in March, a number of new rooms were available to visitors. Some of his stenciled wall decorations of briar roses were discovered in the main bedroom, and revealed after hiding for years under layers of paint.

Some Mackintosh experts feel that an anomaly exists. While Mackintosh receives adulation worldwide, some of his genuine work still exists but is under threat. Pamela Robertson, of the Hunterian Art Gallery, is ``quite anxious'' that two authentic Mackintosh buildings, the Martyrs Public School and the Glasgow Herald Building, ``lie empty, with question marks over them.'' It seems there are no plans to make sure they are not forgotten and lost. ``We shouldn't become complacent,'' she warns.

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