In July 1897, The Studio, a British journal devoted to the Arts and Crafts movement, published the first part of an article titled “Some Glasgow Designers and Their Work.”1 It introduced readers to the work of Frances Macdonald, her sister Margaret, and the man Margaret would marry in 1900, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The article's author, Gleeson White, former editor of The Studio, turned his attention to Mackintosh only after discussing and illustrating the work of the sisters. The journal continued to showcase the group's members, bringing them to the attention of figures such as Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, Joseph Maria Olbrich and Otto Wagner in Vienna, and Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig in Darmstadt. The impact of this exposure on the Macdonalds and Mackintosh is a story that is well known.2
Celebrated architects and their patrons were not the only audience for the articles in The Studio highlighting the designers’ work in the Glasgow tearooms. Catherine Cranston, who commissioned most of the work by Margaret Macdonald and Mackintosh that appeared in the journal's pages, was undoubtedly pleased to see it accorded such attention. But, in a period when architecturally driven tourism was not yet part of any business plan, Cranston was primarily concerned with attracting Glaswegians to her tearooms to have a cup of tea, accompanied by maybe a bowl of soup or a slice of cake. As her native city's most successful businesswoman across the course of the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, Cranston was not as interested in the international design press as she was in making money in ways that nonetheless served her fellow Glaswegians (she bequeathed her considerable fortune to care for Glasgow's poor).3 To understand the impact of the Macdonalds’ and Mackintosh's work, and indeed that of other architects in Glasgow, we need to establish where this work was situated in relation not only to the larger history of architecture but also to the society in which it was embedded. This is not a new issue for architectural historians, but it remains important at a time when many of us are being asked to demonstrate the relevance of what we do.
A good deal of attention is now being paid to the audience for architectural history, not least because of pressure to prove that our research matters outside the walls of the institutions in which many of us teach.4 More than many scholarly disciplines, including even many within the humanities, architectural history has long been outwardly oriented, in part because architecture is such a public art. People from all walks of life care about buildings, cities, and cultural landscapes, both those they inhabit and those they travel to visit. As architectural historians, we are uniquely equipped to explain these buildings and landscapes as well as to assist both grassroots organizations and public officials in advocating for their preservation. Great architecture is consciously designed to attract and engage such publics, including audiences like the shopgirls who welcomed Cranston's tearooms as an alternative to pubs, where they were more likely to receive unwelcome attention from inebriated men. Architectural history should matter as much to people like the waitresses who worked in the Room de Luxe in Cranston's Willow Tea Rooms, which Mackintosh designed (and his wife helped decorate), as it does to us (Figure 1). There are many ways of learning what people who live amid particular buildings have known about them. I focus here on one often overlooked source of such information: newspapers.
We all are indebted to Beatriz Colomina for her description of modern architecture as mass media.5 With the exception of her own fascinating study of Playboy, however, most of the subsequent scholarship inspired by this thesis has focused on how architects communicate with each other, above all through professional journals and exhibitions.6 Of course, the audience for these outlets has always included critics and historians (one has only to think of Nikolaus Pevsner's role at the Architectural Review).7 Still, we can accurately describe that audience as a specialist one, rather than a general one.
I first became convinced of the importance of newspapers as sources for architectural history while I was writing my dissertation. Erich Mendelsohn became one of Germany's most widely known architects on 4 September 1921, the day that a photograph of his Einstein Tower appeared on the front page of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (Figure 2). As a result, Hans Lachmann-Mosse, the owner of Berlin's most important newspaper chain, contacted Mendelsohn to ask him to renovate Mossehaus, an office building in Berlin that had been badly damaged two years earlier in street fighting between the government and left-wing revolutionaries (Figure 3). Mendelsohn executed this commission in collaboration with Richard Neutra and Paul Rudolf Henning; he then went on to build a power plant and an exhibition pavilion for Lachmann-Mosse's publishing house, as well as a shopping, entertainment, and housing complex for Lachmann-Mosse. For Mendelsohn, Lachmann-Mosse was more than an important client. The symbiotic relationship between the two men focused on their ability to publicize each other. Lachmann-Mosse had little appreciation for Mendelsohn's architecture, but he understood that it attracted attention at home and abroad, not least through its frequent appearance in architectural journals and in books about contemporary Berlin. Mendelsohn, meanwhile, benefited from being able to write for the city's newspaper of record, the Berliner Tageblatt, which Lachmann-Mosse published, and thus bring his perspective on architecture to what proved a much more sympathetic audience than the architectural profession itself was then or has been since. Perhaps their most important collaboration occurred in 1924, when Lachmann-Mosse funded a trip to the United States for Mendelsohn and published articles and then a book based on his travels. This was mutually advantageous, as the book sold very well. Consequently, Mendelsohn wrote two further books for Lachmann-Mosse's publishing company, including a monograph on his architecture that appeared in 1930.8
Reconstructing the details of this relationship led me to review fifteen years of the Berliner Tageblatt, the most important of Lachmann-Mosse's newspapers. I cannot claim that the days I spent reading microfilm were the most enjoyable aspect of my doctoral research; they usually left me with a splitting headache. I will say, however, that the process gave me a much better grounding in the cultural context of the Weimar Republic than did the secondary literature alone, and that along the way I discovered many nuggets of information about Mendelsohn that had eluded earlier scholars. More important, however, this work enabled me to understand how Mendelsohn had functioned as the most successful modern architect in Weimar Germany—as measured by the scale of private commissions and the range of their publication and imitation internationally—while always operating slightly outside the mainstream of even avant-garde practice. His key support came not from other leading architects but from fellow Jewish entrepreneurs who recognized in his work a compelling image of the new. They also realized that it resonated with a much larger public of more modest means, including shoppers, office workers, cinemagoers, and visitors to the International Press Exhibition held in Cologne in 1928.
But my focus here is Glasgow, not Berlin. In preparing the talk on which this essay is based, I was prompted to ask what role the Glasgow Herald (now simply the Herald) in particular has played in the local architectural conversation. After all, Mackintosh's first public commission was for that newspaper; the building now known as the Lighthouse was completed in 1895.9 In particular, I decided to examine how the Herald covered three figures, each of whom made major contributions to the city's appearance beginning in the final decade of the nineteenth century. The first of these was Cranston, whose chain of tearooms introduced a broad swath of the city's public to some of Europe's most advanced design. Margaret Brodie, the second, was the site architect for Glasgow's Empire Exhibition of 1938—one of the most important events in the city's interwar history—and the architect of its popular Women of the Empire Pavilion. The third figure, Zaha Hadid, needs no introduction. Her Riverside Museum of Transport opened in Glasgow in 2011 and now draws more than a million visitors annually.10 How were these women and the architecture with which they were associated covered in the pages of the Herald? The answers to this question can be used to gauge not what ordinary Glaswegians thought about architecture but what middle-class newspaper readers knew about certain places they frequented.
In a lengthy obituary published soon after Cranston's death in April 1934, the Herald described her as a “charming old lady, who in her prime and long past the age normally regarded as such was a striking figure on our city streets, as she walked briskly along, attired in quaint early Victorian costume, and carrying herself with a wonderful air.” But it was not her eccentric style of dress, which favored crinolines popular half a century earlier, that prompted the paper to devote so many column inches to her demise. The Herald further pointed out: “Miss Cranston was the first to perceive and employ the genius of two distinguished Scottish architectural artists. One was George Walton and the other Charles R. Mackintosh, who afterwards designed the Glasgow School of Art, and who influenced modern styles not only in this country but also on the continent.” On the tearooms, the obituary noted:
The artists’ decorations were unique for the period—severely simple and strikingly original and combined with Miss Cranston's love of beauty in form and color were a complete breakaway from the Victorian influence. The tearooms were a refreshing and restful note in Glasgow life; they reacted upon the tastes of the people, and they became popular not only with citizens but with visitors from far and near.
The paper was quick to point out as well that “Miss Cranston was a keen organizer and a model employer. She was a kindly lady with a sense of humor,” before once again returning to “her originality and picturesqueness in dress.”11
Although Cranston's accomplishments and death were addressed in other Glasgow newspapers, these particular references are important, as they are among the Herald's earliest mentions of her tearooms. (Most mentions of Mackintosh in the paper refer to exhibited drawings rather than completed buildings.)12 The Herald obituary demonstrates that by the 1930s, Cranston's accomplishments as a patron of the arts, and as a pioneering businesswoman, were widely recognized in the city, long after the style she had championed had ceased to be fashionable. The fact that her obituary was much longer than the one that appeared in the Herald for Mackintosh himself also proves that it was she, rather than he—or, for that matter, Margaret Macdonald—with whom Glaswegians ultimately associated the tearooms and their distinctive style.13
Dress and architecture were closely intertwined in an example of Glasgow architecture that, although overlooked today, occupied an impressive number of column issues in the Herald across the spring, summer, and autumn of 1938. The Women of the Empire Pavilion, which included the Fashion Theatre as well as an exhibition of historical dress, garnered a large share of the attention the newspaper paid to the Empire Exhibition, held in the city's Bellahouston Park that year (Figure 4). Designed by Brodie, the pavilion also included, not surprisingly, a tearoom, run by Wendy's of Glasgow.14
The day before the exhibition opened, Jean Kelvin reported in the Herald on its various features, noting in regard to the Women of the Empire Pavilion that “scrolled above a large mural painting representing women in their many varied spheres is this admirable legend: Blessed is she who has found work.”15 This was a motto to which Cranston would have ardently subscribed. Today we tend to think of the interwar period as one in which women's work was centered in the home, but readers of the Herald knew better. Just the day before, the newspaper had reported the resignation of Katharine Stewart-Murray, Duchess of Atholl, as the Conservative Party's whip in Parliament due to her disagreement with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain over his policy toward Fascist Italy, which she regarded as entirely too cozy.16
As the Herald would report upon her death in 1997, Brodie was born in 1907. The daughter of a civil engineer, she was one of three sisters, all of whom went to university. She was fortunate that her professor at the Glasgow School of Architecture, T. Harold Hughes, and his wife, Edith, proved extremely supportive of the school's first female students. Through Edith Hughes's connections, Brodie found a position in London with Burnet, Tait and Lorne; partner Thomas Tait was responsible for the design of most of the Empire Exhibition, including its signature 300-foot-tall tower, although his talented assistant Basil Spence designed the paired Scottish pavilions framing the central avenue.17
The Women of the Empire Pavilion was typical of the exhibition's architecture.18 Low-lying, without the bold towers that marked the most important buildings, Brodie's 15,000-square-foot pavilion was nonetheless a frank indication of the possibilities unleashed by the combination of skeletal-steel construction and the abstract aesthetic encouraged by the ample use throughout the exhibition of Gyproc, a form of plasterboard. This material was manufactured locally by the Distillers Company, which, as the Herald was delighted to announce, had opened a new factory to fill the orders prompted by the needs of the exhibition.19 As architectural historians, we can see why the Empire Exhibition, all but one of whose structures were quickly disassembled afterward, is not better remembered—despite the exhibition's being by far the largest ensemble of buildings erected in Britain in an abstract, modern style during the first half of the twentieth century (Figure 5). The architecture was derivative, especially of the work of architects such as Robert Mallet-Stevens and W. M. Dudok, and of Gunnar Asplund more than Alvar Aalto or, for that matter, Mendelsohn, who, in partnership with Serge Chermayeff, had recently completed the De La Warr Pavilion (1935) in Bexhill on Sea in East Sussex, a commission he won thanks to Tait.20 Although forward-looking, the architecture of the Glasgow exhibition was less radical than what had been on display eleven years earlier at the Weissenhof Housing Estate (1927) in Stuttgart.21
The Herald's coverage of the Women of the Empire Pavilion and the larger exhibition of which it was a part hints at several stories, however—stories of a kind that we tend to overlook when we dismiss this understudied and relatively unoriginal type of modernism. Frankly commercial and fashionable, the exhibition's buildings challenge our hope that modern architecture had an emancipatory detachment from consumer capitalism; the local Independent Labour Party did not support the exhibition or appreciate its architecture.22 Yet the global popularity of this approach with those who were comfortably middle-class undercuts the claim that the monumental neoclassicism that dominated the International Exposition in Paris the year before was, for better or worse, the style of the moment, and that it was this style's popularity that temporarily stunted the careers of figures such as Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
What interested the Herald was instead what Walter Eliot, the secretary of state for Scotland, described as “the modern spirit of light, speed and color.”23 Modern architecture made a clear break with the past. An editorial remarked, “The spaciousness and dignity of the Bellahouston buildings do make a sharp and painful contrast with some of the mean and dirty streets by which one travels from the city to the brave new world.”24 This transformation, however, was not intended to challenge the authority of established institutions, such as the monarchy. After all, Queen Mary visited the Women of the Empire Pavilion three times in a single week.25 Instead, what the Herald admired was the combination of freshness and pleasure exuded by “buildings that catch the breath by their bold design and distinctive coloring, their broad facades and severe lines offset by cheerful tones and decorative murals.”26
Moreover, it was abundantly clear that women of all classes were the target audience for the exhibition in general, as well as the particular pavilion Brodie was charged with designing. According to the Herald, when Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon, Lady Aberdeen, addressed a gathering near the close of the exhibition, she asserted that “in a very real sense the Exhibition had been a women's exhibition. No tally had been kept of how many men and how many women had entered the Exhibition, but she made bold to say that women had been greatly in the majority.”27 Although, due in part to the Sunday closings mandated by local Presbyterians, as well as one of the wettest summers on record, overall attendance at the exhibition did not reach the hoped-for figure of fifteen million, Brodie's pavilion was clearly one of the most popular attractions.28 It was a favorite of dignitaries. Queen Elizabeth came on opening day, and the Countess of Elgin, who presided over the pavilion throughout the run of the exhibition, presented Brodie to her.29 At the queen's request, however, the audience awaiting her in the Fashion Theatre consisted largely of the men who had built the exhibition and their wives. In covering the event, journalists went out of their way to stress that working-class women identified the designs on view as ones that they were well able to make and would like to wear.30 Organizers were also clear about the purpose of the exhibition. Edward Symondes declared, “I am not trying to sell ‘styles’ or ‘fashions’ via the displays in the Fashion Theatre, but to make the people of the British Empire in particular, and those of the world in general, conscious of the beauty and the fashion-rightness of British fabrics for all seasons and occasions.”31
The Herald's coverage also made clear that the target audience for the pavilion was not simply women of all classes from Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. After Kelvin lamented in her column in the paper at the end of August that the latest autumn fashions were not on display at the pavilion, Symondes defended his decision to focus on lighter, summer-weather clothing: “We have visitors not only from the cold and damp North but from all parts of the world in general.”32
The Empire Exhibition focused above all on Britain's relationship with Ireland and the settler-ruled dominions—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Southern Rhodesia—rather than on its other colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, among which only Burma had its own pavilion.33 Very few traces of the references to premodern Asian and African architecture that infused Edwin Lutyens's New Delhi, begun in 1912, the Wembley British Empire Exhibition in London of 1925 and 1926, and, as Patricia Morton and Steven Nelson have shown, the Colonial Exposition held in Paris in 1931 could be found in Glasgow.34 Rather, a nearly uniform preference for abstraction replaced ornamental nods toward indigenous heritage.
The Empire Exhibition was modern, but not in the manner of the European masters who still dominate the stories we tell about the architecture of the interwar years. Instead, it was modern in the manner of architects in Tel Aviv and Bombay, or Johannesburg and Baghdad, who wanted to be new and different from the Europe they had left behind or the one whose rule they hoped soon to slough off completely. Few if any of these people turned in the 1930s to Britain for inspiration when they wanted buildings that looked obviously new, even though the Empire Exhibition was intended to engage their attention and even their respect. And although much of this initial globalization of what was beginning to be termed “the International Style” was commercial, when it was domestic it was often a demonstration of exactly the kind of progressively minded upper-middle-class taste that coincided with encouraging women to pursue professional careers, not least as architects.
Such is the case with the Johannesburg house that Denise Scott Brown's mother, Phyllis Hepker Lakofski, commissioned from Norman Hanson, her former classmate at the architecture school of the University of the Witwatersrand (Figure 6).35 Hanson had experienced the work of the European masters firsthand while traveling in France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, as well as England, and he completed the Lakofski House in 1936, two years before Gropius built his own house in Lincoln, Massachusetts.36 Another exemplar of this middle-class domestic modernism is the so-called White Palace in the Al-Sa'dun district of Baghdad, which Zaha Hadid's father, Mohammed Hadid, had built in the 1930s, shortly after he returned to Iraq after studying at the London School of Economics.37 The young politician, much of whose career would focus on diminishing British interference in Iraq, awarded the commission for his house to the Syrian architect Badri Qadah, who also designed the Villa Chadirji in Baghdad in 1936.38 The Villa Chadirji was erected for another anti-British politician, whose son, Rifat Chadirji, also became an important architect. In these Baghdad houses, art deco returns, so to speak, to its roots in the Mediterranean and Arab vernacular, even while remaining fashionably French in a way that, like the modernism of the Empire Exhibition, owes much more to Robert Mallet-Stevens than to Le Corbusier. Tait's and Brodie's designs for the Empire Exhibition catered to this same international bourgeois enthusiasm for new architectural forms.
Women's engagement in architecture was not a story in which Glasgow's Herald would take much interest until the end of the twentieth century. As became a genteel woman of her generation, Brodie mostly kept out of the newspaper until near the end of her life. This although she built a career specializing in the design of modest modern churches and teaching at the Glasgow School of Architecture, where, according to her obituary, she was “forceful, demanding but kindly,” with a “pawky sense of humor and highly refined sense of irony.”39 An exceptional mention in the Herald occurred when a journalist on holiday in Jersey in 1951 happened to overhear a conversation in a hotel lobby: “‘Yes,’ continued the elderly gentleman with the cultured voice. ‘It was an open competition; of course, the designs were displayed anonymously, and when the winner was announced to be a dame from Glasgow you could have heard a pin drop. Brodie was the name. Nice young woman.’”40 The project in question was a war memorial and art block for Jersey's Victoria College, a prestigious secondary school for boys. It was completed in 1952.
Brodie's modest local church buildings appear to have been ignored by the Herald. They included Saint Martin's in Port Glasgow (1957) and Saint Brendan's in Rothesay (1975).41 The latter, built after a fire destroyed all but the steeple of its Victorian predecessor, was itself recently demolished.42 The Herald did pay attention, however, in 1974 when Brodie became “the first woman convener of a full committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.”43 Shortly before her death Brodie was made a fellow of the school where she had studied and taught. The Herald noted: “This was something which she dismissed to friends as ‘so much nonsense.’ However, it gave her immense pleasure and satisfaction in the acknowledgement that she was not merely one of the school's most distinguished female alumni but one of Scotland's leading creative forces of her generation.”44
In the eyes of the Herald's writers and editors, Cranston's and Brodie's contributions marked the creation, hardly unique to these two, of an architecture that brought commercial success precisely because it was new and different, but also because it indicated that Glasgow was connected to a wider world. These two themes characterized much of the coverage that Zaha Hadid and her Riverside Museum of Transport received in the newspaper's pages (Figure 7). This was Hadid's first major building in the United Kingdom.45 In consequence, the Herald had a great deal to say about her, as well as about the museum she designed at the confluence of the Rivers Clyde and Kelvin. Hadid won the commission in 2004; the museum was finally dedicated seven years later, after delays caused in part by cost overruns due, the Herald reported, to “inflation in the price of core materials, lack of competition in the construction market and the detailed design of the building.”46 All this was despite Hadid's revision of the design to make it less expensive to build.47
From the time she received the commission until her untimely death in 2016, the Herald was fascinated by Hadid and encouraged Glaswegians to feel validated by her enthusiasm for their city. The paper was delighted in 2008 to quote her declaration “Scotland is nice; London is prejudiced.”48 The Herald was not interested in the nuances of style, however. It did not instruct its readers in the details of deconstructivism or, for that matter, parametric design. Instead, it described the Riverside Museum as “a giant flash of lightening that has just hit the ground.”49 Most of all it focused on Hadid herself and on what she could do to return Glasgow to the place on the world architectural stage that it commanded in the days of Cranston's tearooms and—despite the battering taken during the Great Depression—in 1938, when, in addition to the Empire Exhibition, the city witnessed the launching of the great ocean liner Queen Elizabeth from its docks.50
The Herald almost always stressed that Hadid was Iraqi, even though by that time she was a naturalized British citizen and a Commander of the British Empire.51 This did not impinge upon her modernity, however. Her obituary in the Herald mentioned that she had grown up in what the writer termed “a Bauhaus-inspired house.”52 As with the fact that almost all her major work had been realized outside Britain—a recurring theme of the Herald coverage of her career—Hadid's Iraqi heritage reassured Glaswegians that they were not provincial. When the jurors for the inaugural Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland Awards snubbed Hadid's museum, the Herald, like the architect herself perhaps, recovered by celebrating the fact that she won the Jane Drew Prize, awarded in London, and that the building was soon named European Museum of the Year by the European Museum Forum.53,Herald reporter Victoria Weldon took a similar and particularly local pleasure when, in 2016, Hadid became the first woman to win the Royal Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects entirely in her own right.54
Accolades like these were important to Glaswegians as well because, although the Riverside Museum was ostensibly a civic building and admission was free, much of the purpose of the building was to burnish the city's image and economy. Brigid McConnell, the city council's executive director of culture and sport, declared in 2006, “Hadid's museum, like Frank Gehry's Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, will speak volumes for Glasgow's ambition for its people and its reputation as a world-class city; proud of its industrial heritage, which will be displayed to brilliant effect in the museum, yet confident in its reinvention as a modern, contemporary city of culture.”55 Success has been measured above all in visitor numbers, and these have nearly tripled since the collection's relocation to Hadid's structure.56 This rhetoric differs little from the way in which the Herald focused on admissions statistics during the Empire Exhibition.
Two things stand out about the Herald's coverage of Cranston, Brodie, and Hadid, and the places in the city associated with them. The first is an excitement about the new that, without any particular attention to the theory behind it, clearly is alert to its commercial potential. Dismissing this excitement as mere fashion consciousness ignores a considerable amount of the impetus behind what popular enthusiasm there was and continues to be for experimental architecture and thus our understanding of when and why it finds patronage.
The second notable element in the Herald's coverage is an appreciation of the degree to which this architecture made Glasgow part of an international conversation. Some of the architectural components were pioneered in Glasgow, many were developed in Europe, still others were imports from the United States, yet modern architecture's appeal was always transnational and, since the 1930s, global. Hadid herself was as much the product of this interwar globalization as she was paradigmatic of the starchitecture of the past two decades. The Society of Architectural Historians met in Glasgow because of the increasing internationalization of what was once an almost purely North American organization. I spoke at that meeting on an evening when the polls closed on an election called to validate Brexit, and given such developments, I do not believe this is the time to dismiss as banal boosterism the long-standing wish of those writing about architecture for the Herald, who, while extraordinarily proud of their city, nonetheless wanted its buildings to link it to the rest of the world.