Scotland Street School

Glasgow (1903-1906)

‘Meetings were hastily called...'

It seems fitting that Scotland Street School is now a museum of school education. The masterly building itself is a former school serving the working-class community of Tradeston, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1903 and 1906. The building is one of Glasgow’s foremost architectural attractions.

Although Scotland Street School was built in the twentieth century, its design philosophy was grounded in the Victorian era. The school was designed for an enrolment of 1,250 pupils which, when considered against modern space standards, seems totally unrealistic.

By 1904, when the commission was given for Scotland Street School, Mackintosh was a partner in the practice. The Education board had to pay a lot of money for the site which was in a high value industrial area. It cost £13,500 in 1904, compared to £2,100 for the additional land required for the Martyrs School in 1895. This probably meant that the board was particularly conscious of costs when it came to the construction of Scotland Street School.
Mackintosh did not help this situation by having one set of drawings approved by the board, and giving another to the builder only months later. This was detected when a junior in the practice sent the new drawings to the board for approval and significant changes were noticed in a number of features.

Meetings were hastily called and the board made it clear they were not happy with Mackintosh’s attitude. The need for stained glass in school windows was questioned. The now-trademark voids in the stair towers were also felt to be unnecessary. Even the tiling layouts – subject of the drawings which alerted the board to the more widespread changes – were targeted for cutbacks.

In the end, Mackintosh managed to retain many of the new features but he lost the argument on the stair railings which reverted to their original plain metal design. The final build cost was £34,219, exceeding the £32,700 loan obtained from the Scottish Education Department.