Sunday, December 3


More Liverpudliana

Giles Gilbert Scott's involvement in the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral competition was hardly a sure thing at first. His design was nearly rejected after it was discovered he was a 22-year-old student, and a Roman Catholic at that. He also had some stiff competition, in the form of more than a hundred other entries. One of the stranger and more novel designs submitted was an entry by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a Glaswegian architect of cutting-edge art nouveau.

I'm not sure how the presumably conservative jurors took this rather idiosyncratic modern rendering of Gothic, but it is certainly worth of study. Mackintosh's work is rather more abstract than my tastes usually run, but he handled simplicity well, had a deep sense of humanizing craft, and the proto-modernism he practiced is one far more easy to reconcile in retrospect with traditional architectural orthodoxy than Gropius, Mies and faceless stack-a-prole Corbusianism. If you're going to have simplicity anyway, you'd do well to stick with Mackintosh.

Some details of this project appear to have influenced Scott in the final form of the cathedral as it was built, as the design evolved over his long life. (Incidentally, in the free time in between cathedral-building jaunts, he also found time to design the iconic British red telephone box, endowing the streamlined design with a neo-Georgian classicism inspired by Sir John Soane's work. However, some of his later work, like Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Kensington, is a bit of a mess.)

These images are © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, 2006. If there are any protests, I will remove them. More of the cathedral designs can be found via their search engine.

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