The calculated shrieking of the lead singer’s vocals triumphed over the heavy bass line and drum beat from the pub across the street. I looked around and took a deep breath – I knew that I would one day reminisce upon walking the safe streets of Glasgow at night with sentimental nostalgia.
Everything about the city of Glasgow in Scotland is wonderful.
The majestic stone buildings proudly command admiration from passersby and stand as a testament to the city’s history; and yet, the city pulses with the vibrancy of youth that can be heard echoing through the pub-lined streets at night. Nowadays, Glasgow may be known for its talented roster of indie musicians that comprise the hipster community, but it was back during the turn of the 20th century that Glasgow gained notoriety for its impressive collection of Art Nouveau architecture and art.
The term Art Nouveau (French for “new art”) is used to describe an art and architecture movement that became wildly popular between 1890 and 1914. Much credit for the inception of the Art Nouveau style goes out to Czech artist Alphonse Mucha (who was undoubtedly inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement that was spear-headed by William Morris); but Glasgow’s Art Nouveau movement is credited to Charles Rennie Mackintosh (although his work was not initially embraced by the public…even back then, people didn’t like change).
As is the case with most art and architecture movements, the Art Nouveau style is a fusion (or in some cases, a progression) of past styles. For instance, the consistent use of botanical imagery (including creeping vines, flowers, birds, insects, etc.) is taken from the flamboyant detailing of the Rococo style where seashells and flowers are commonly used as surface decoration.
Art Nouveau brought forth a modernization of some of the revival styles of the Victorian Era; this is the reason that arched doors and windows are still common in Art Nouveau, but are paired with long, harsh vertical lines to create more visual tension.
Mackintosh brought the style to the city by designing several buildings in the most comprehensive of ways. Not only do the exteriors of buildings exude Art Nouveau characteristics, but so do the interiors; creating a thorough sense of harmony and rhythm in each structure. Examples of this interior vs. exterior design harmony is obvious in the Glasgow School of Art, which he designed and constructed in 1897-1909, and it still functions as one of the top art schools in Scotland to this day. This school was one of Mackintosh’s first major projects (and one of my personal favourites). There are some remnants of the Arts and Crafts style seen in the interior and exterior, but since these two movements share many similar characteristics (due to their consecutive nature), there is no harm done.
Art Nouveau is one of the easier architectural styles to identify because of its unique use of botanical imagery as decoration and intricate ironwork.
The abundance of Art Nouveau architecture in Glasgow is easily admired thanks to the large spans of pedestrian-only pavilions. When walking along Buchanan Street, you will find yourself face-to-façade with numerous Art Nouveau building details, especially at Princes Square.
My favourite decorative elements include transom windows with peacock-feather stained glass and the classic Art Nouveau-esque font that is used in the signage of a building.
Art Nouveau Architecture Highlights:
- Organic forms – grass, seaweed, flowers, insects, birds, feathers – are used to contrast straight lines in a “natural” way; often depicted in “twisting plant” formations.
- Very long, rectilinear lines, used especially in iron-work.
- Women figures with long, flowing hair. Cherub faces with laurels.
- Wrought iron used as signage, railings, doors and window frames.
- Glass often used in the form of stained-glass (think of Tiffany lamps designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany) mixed with wrought-iron & lead.
- Honey-coloured wood furniture and fittings (also used in lighting).
- Gold, brass and copper finishes used to create opulence in staircases, ceiling treatments and light fixtures.
- The Art Nouveau style varies slightly in different European countries depending on the influences at the time. (click HERE to read more)