V&A Dundee

Long lost Mackintosh tearoom to be conserved for public display

Press release

08 July 2015

Almost 50 years since it was last seen, the Oak Room – the largest Charles Rennie Mackintosh interior for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tearooms in Glasgow – is set to be conserved, restored and displayed as part of a major collaborative project between Glasgow Museums and V&A Museum of Design Dundee.

It will be unveiled as a centrepiece of V&A Dundee’s Scottish Design Galleries when the museum opens to the public in 2018 thanks to a long-term loan by Glasgow Life and grant funding from Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland. Salvaged in advance of a hotel development in the 1970s and taken into Glasgow City Council’s museum collections, it is the first time all 600 surviving pieces of the interior will be reassembled and put on public display.

At 13.5 metres long, the Oak Room is described as ‘the sleeping giant’ of the Ingram Street tearoom. Staff from Glasgow Museums and V&A Dundee will work together on the conservation and reconstruction project. The double-height Oak Room, designed by Mackintosh in 1907 and completed in 1908, is acknowledged as an important interior that would inform his design ideas for the Glasgow School of Art Library, which was completed a year later in 1909.

The interior last functioned as a tearoom in the early 1950s. Only a very small part of the room has ever been on display at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum since the interior’s removal from the original building in 1971.

Councillor Archie Graham OBE, the Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “This is a fantastic example of joint working, which will bring back this lost gem for public display, confirming Mackintosh’s unique and internationally significant contribution to Scottish design history.

“Each time our staff work on these rooms they discover Mackintosh’s ingenuity for creatively arranging interior spaces into complete works of art. We hope this exciting collaborative project will allow us to uncover many more of Mackintosh’s design secrets for everyone to enjoy.”

Philip Long, Director of V&A Dundee, said: “V&A Dundee will celebrate the best of Scottish and international design creativity. When we set about planning the Scottish Design Galleries for V&A Dundee it was vital Mackintosh, recognised around the world as one of the great and most influential of designers, was represented appropriately. It is extremely fitting that the public will be able to see such a major work by him at the heart of that story.

“We are delighted to work jointly with Glasgow Life on the conservation and restoration of this important historic interior and to draw on their extensive Mackintosh expertise. We are also very grateful to Glasgow Life for their generous loan of the tearoom and to the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland which is fully funding this project alongside its major contribution to the realisation of V&A Dundee itself.”

The conservation, restoration and reassembly of the Oak Room will be complex. When the tearooms were removed each room was numbered, each wall given a reference, and each piece of panelling coded. Plans and elevations of the rooms were drawn to show how everything fitted together. Between 2004-5, with the help of this coded information Glasgow Museums quantified and documented all surviving Oak Room panelling. Scottish Government funding enabled the developmental stage that has informed the work which will now take place to recreate a lost Mackintosh gem.

Joanna Norman, Senior Curator at the V&A and Lead Curator for the Scottish Design Galleries, said: “This major conservation project preserves and presents an outstanding piece of Scottish design heritage for a broad public audience. It is extremely exciting that it will be unveiled at the opening of V&A Dundee in 2018, the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth. The Oak Room will be the only historic interior on display in our galleries and its reassembly will allow visitors to immerse themselves fully in the brilliance of Mackintosh’s spatial and decorative design.”

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his distinctive designs are admired around the globe. They attract visitors in their thousands making a significant contribution to Scotland’s tourist economy. We are delighted that this wonderful interior will be restored to take pride of place in the new V&A Dundee. Thanks to players of the National Lottery, visitors from home and abroad will be able to delight in and learn from this wonderful example of our rich heritage in design.”

Councillor Ken Guild, Dundee City Council administration leader, said: “I am delighted to see progress on the V&A Dundee building and also on the inspirational exhibitions that will be staged once the museum opens. There can be no doubt that such an outstanding exhibit as being announced today will be a draw for many thousands from around the world.”

The Oak Room will be displayed in V&A Dundee’s Scottish Design Galleries, a set of galleries which will showcase the significance and relevance of design with a particular focus on Scottish achievement. The galleries will display around 250 objects drawn largely from the V&A’s outstanding collections with additional important loans. The displays will span a wide range of design disciplines from furniture to fashion, architecture to digital design. The galleries will focus in particular on the international reach of Scottish design, both historically and today, with a strong emphasis placed on the design process, materials and technological innovation, and on particular centres of design in Scotland. Displays will showcase the breadth of Scottish creativity and innovation over a broad historical period right up to the present day, also presenting the most recent cutting-edge Scottish design.

Notes to editors:

V&A Dundee
V&A Museum of Design Dundee will be an international centre for design, housed in a world-class building created by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma at the heart of Dundee’s revitalised waterfront. It will host major exhibitions, celebrate design heritage, inspire and promote contemporary talent, and encourage future design innovation.

V&A Dundee is being delivered by Design Dundee Ltd, a partnership between the Victoria and Albert Museum – the world’s greatest museum of art and design – Dundee City Council, the University of Dundee, Abertay University and Scottish Enterprise.

Key funders of the project to develop V&A Dundee include the Scottish Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Dundee City Council and Creative Scotland.

Glasgow Museums
Glasgow is home to nine civic museums including Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Burrell Collection and the Riverside Museum. Glasgow Museums cares for 1.4 million objects on behalf of the city, with the civic collection regarded as one of Europe’s finest. Glasgow Museums is part of Glasgow Life, which delivers world-class cultural, sport and learning services on behalf of Glasgow City Council.

The Ingram Street Tearoom interiors
The interiors of the Ingram Street Tearooms designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1900 and 1911 are unique. They are the only surviving suite of interiors from a tearoom complex dating to the turn of the twentieth century. In Glasgow, they are the most important work of undiscovered Mackintosh. Designed for tearoom entrepreneur Miss Catherine Cranston, Mackintosh's suite of interiors was shop-fitted into the ground floor and basement of a Victorian warehouse and office premises at 205–17 Ingram Street. They were one of four city-centre tearoom premises Mackintosh worked on for Miss Cranston – the others being on Buchanan Street, Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street (The Willow Tea Rooms).

The Ingram Street premises remained in use as tearooms until 1951, after which they were used as shops and storage spaces. The interiors were documented and removed in 1971 to enable the building to be converted into a hotel, and are now part of Glasgow City Council's Museums' collection, managed and cared for by Glasgow Museums, Glasgow Life. Since 1984 small sections of the tearooms have been on display in Glasgow. Funding grants received between 1998 and 2007 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government enabled Glasgow Museums to continue to research, care for, conserve and restore these internationally important tearoom interiors.