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In the magnificent surroundings of Glasgow's Bellahouston Park stands "the greatest house that Mackintosh never built".

A dream realized nearly a century after its design, House for an Art Lover stands as a monument to Scotland's greatest 20th century architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Within Glasgow's picturesque Bellahouston Park stands a true testament to the visionary genius of the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. As you watch devotees converge upon House for an Art Lover, designed in 1901, it is hard to imagine that this monument of 20th century architecture almost never was. Built from just 14 sketches nearly a century after the conception of the plan, this was to be Mackintosh's grandest design.

While searching for a new location for his expanding company, a fortuitous wrong turn led Graham Roxburgh to Craigie Hall, a dilapidated late-19th-century mansion, designed by the architectural practice of John Honeyman. As restoration commenced, research into the building's history unearthed evidence that alterations carried out by the architect in 1897 were aided by a young draughtsman named Charles Rennie Mackintosh. As Roxburgh began delving deeper into the Mackintosh archives, he unearthed a portfolio containing the submission for an architectural competition to design "a grand residence for an art lover," launched in December 1900 by the German design journal Zeitschrift für Innendekoration.

Although Mackintosh's entry was disqualified because the set brief lacked interior perspectives, the architect was awarded a Purchase prize, and the drawings of House for an Art Lover were published, leaving little room for doubt that Mackintosh would have been the unequivocal winner, had he not been disqualified. In Roxburgh's recently published book, 'Building the Dream – The Realization of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's House for an Art Lover,' he recalls his first sighting of "Sheet No 7 – 'Living Room and Music Room,'" designed by Mackintosh and his new wife, the artist Margaret MacDonald. "Words cannot describe the impact upon me of their design. With a visionary concept expressed in muted pastels on a white 'canvas,' their design had seemingly leapt from the late Victorian right into the body of twentieth-century interior design." Roxburgh was resolute - Mackintosh's masterpiece must be built.

With unshakable faith in the Scotsman's vernacular vision, Roxburgh first began his quest for an architect of tantamount passion who would share that historic vision. His first and last call was to Professor Andy Macmillan, a local architect and head of the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow. When asked by Roxburgh if his ambitious plan was mere folly, and if he could suggest a suitable architect, Macmillan responded "no" to the first question, and, "Yes, I'm your man!" to the latter. "When Graham first spoke to me, I said, 'You're daft,' but I thought it was a great idea. I'd always believed that the art lover's house drawings were Mackintosh moving from the arts and crafts that was current at the time, into the Art Cubism of the next 30 years... I was interested to see what the building would really look like in real life," he recalls. With Macmillan on board, Roxburgh's next task was to find a fitting location for such a fine structure. Should it be Darmstadt, the origin of Alexander Koch's call for design, where Mackintosh was hailed as a modernist messiah, or the architect's homeland? Mackintosh seemed to have already decided, the House for an Art Lover was to be built within the pastoral surroundings of Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, on the former site of Ibroxhill House, possibly Mackintosh's original inspiration.

Works commenced not only to create a structure, but an entire arts-and-crafts-inspired house, elements of which, inspired the modernist movement, as the architect envisioned. However with only 14 scale drawings for reference and a precursory move into a modernist style, this was no straightforward project. The solution was found by marrying aspects from Mackintosh's past and future works. "Graham and I discussed at the beginning the fact that we could use anything Mackintosh designed from the five years on either side of 1900. This meant that we had not invented anything. We discovered that Mackintosh himself actually used to do this; for example, the balcony screen comes straight from Queen's Cross Church, with a slight modification," says Macmillan.

The two most celebrated projects, Windyhill, designed in 1899, and the The Hill House, designed two years later, offered a wealth of clues as to how the house may have looked in the hands of its designer. For example, the entrance to the main hall and staircase show elements first displayed at Windyhill, which became precursory elements to details of the Hill House.

The grand piano, a focal point of the music room, is thought to have been inspired by the house that gave rise to Roxburgh's project, Craigie Hall. However, Charles Rennie Mackintosh cannot take full credit for the beauty of this opulent area. It is the magnificence of Margaret's artistry, displayed in sublime panel work, screens and stained glass designs—an integral aspect of the art-inspired home—that brings grace to this amazing space. Each detail was faithfully recreated by master craftsmen from the region, with one shared vision. As Graham Roxburgh recalls, "Jack Kennedy did the incredible stonework carving on the south elevation. He said on completion that he'd put a tremendous amount of himself into this study of the background of Mackintosh's work, but he hoped that when people saw it, they would see it as 95% Mackintosh's work and perhaps 5% his. When people's hearts and hands are totally engaged, it's incredible."

Just over a decade since its completion, the local landmark, which serves as a museum, café and post-graduate outpost of the Glasgow School of Art, stands as a symbol of cultural refinement, an homage to Scotland's architectural heritage, and last but not least, to the golden age of the arts.

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